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a Pelican Book 

Beyond Freedom 
and Dignity 

B. F. Skinner 

Pelican Books 

Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

B. F. Skinner has been named (by Time magazine) 'the 
most influential of living American psychologists and 
the most controversial figure in the science of human 
behaviour’. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1904 and 
gained M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard. Since 1948 
he has taught at Harvard, where he is now Edgar Pierce 
Professor of Psychology. The author of the classic Utopian 
novel Walden Two (1948), Professor Skinner is famous 
for his laboratory work with pigeons, bringing animal 
experimentation to a quantitative scientific level. He is known 
as the father of the teaching machine and programmed 
learning, and his inventions include the Air Crib, a 
mechanical baby-tender, and the Skinner Box, a research 
instrument designed to trace changes in animal behaviour. 
Among the many honours he has received are the National 
Science Award and the Distinguished Contribution Award 
of the American Psychological Association. Beyond 
Freedom and Dignity, the summary of his life’s work in the 
scientific analysis of behaviour, has been called by 
Science News ‘one of the most important happenings in 
twentieth century psychology’. 

B. F. Skinner 

Beyond Freedom 
and Dignity 

Penguin Books 

Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, 

Middlesex, England 

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, 

Victoria, Australia 
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 

182-igo Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand 

First published in the U.S.A. 1971 

Published in Great Britain by Jonathan Cape 1972 

Published in Pelican Books 1973 

Reprinted 1974, 1976 

Copyright © B. F. Skinner, 1971 

Made and printed in Great Britain by 
Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd 
Bungay, Suffolk 
Set in Linotype Baskerville 

This book is sold subject to the condition that 
it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, 
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without 
the publisher’s prior consent in any form of 
binding or cover other than that in which it is 
published and without a similar condition 
including this condition being imposed on the 
subsequent purchaser 


1. A Technology of Behaviour 9 

2. Freedom 31 

3. Dignity 48 

4. Punishment 63 

5. Alternatives to Punishment 84 

6. Values 101 

7. The Evolution of a Culture 126 

8. The Design of a Culture 143 

9. What Is Man? 180 
Notes 211 

Acknowledgements 2 1 9 


A Technology of Behaviour 

In trying to solve the terrifying problems that face us in 
the world today, we naturally turn to the things we do 
best. We play from strength, and our strength is science 
and technology. To contain a population explosion we 
look for better methods of birth control. Threatened by a 
nuclear holocaust, we build bigger deterrent forces and 
anti-ballistic-missile systems. We try to stave off world 
famine with new foods and better ways of growing them. 
Improved sanitation and medicine will, we hope, control 
disease, better housing and transportation will solve the 
problems of the ghettos, and new ways of reducing or 
disposing of waste will stop the pollution of the environ- 
ment. We can point to remarkable achievements in all 
these fields, and it is not surprising that we should try to 
extend them. But things grow steadily worse, and it is 
disheartening to find that technology itself is increasingly 
at fault. Sanitation and medicine have made the prob- 
lems of population more acute, war has acquired a new 
horror with the invention of nuclear weapons, and the 
affluent pursuit of happiness is largely responsible for 
pollution. As Darlington* has said, ‘Every new source 
from which man has increased his power on the earth has 
been used to diminish the prospects of his successors. All 
his progress has been at the expense of damage to his en- 
vironment which he cannot repair and could not foresee.’ 
Whether or not he could have foreseen the damage, 
• Notes begin on page an. 

io Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

man must repair it or all is lost. And he can do so if he 
will recognize the nature of the difficulty. The applica- 
tion of the physical and biological sciences alone will not 
solve our problems because the solutions lie in another 
field. Better contraceptives will control population only 
if people use them. New weapons may offset new defences 
and vice versa, but a nuclear holocaust can be prevented 
only if the conditions under which nations make war can 
be changed. New methods of agriculture and medicine 
will not help if they are not practised, and housing is a 
matter not only of buildings and cities but of how people 
live. Overcrowding can be corrected only by inducing 
people not to crowd, and the environment will continue 
to deteriorate until polluting practices are abandoned. 

In short, we need to make vast changes in human be- 
haviour, and we cannot make them with the help of 
nothing more than physics or biology, no matter how 
hard we try. (And there are other problems, such as the 
breakdown of our educational system and the disaffection 
and revolt of the young, to which physical and biological 
technologies are so obviously irrelevant that they have 
never been applied.) It is not enough to ‘use technology 
with a deeper understanding of human issues’, or to 
‘dedicate technology to man’s spiritual needs’, or to ‘en- 
courage technologists to look at human problems’. Such 
expressions imply that where human behaviour begins, 
technology stops, and that we must carry on, as we have 
in the past, with what we have learned from personal 
experience or from those collections of personal experi- 
ences called history, or with the distillations of experi- 
ence to be found in folk wisdom and practical rules of 
thumb. These have been available for centuries, and all 
we have to show for them is the state of the world today. 

What we need is a technology of behaviour. We could 
solve our problems quickly enough if we could adjust the 

A Technology of Behaviour 11 

growth of the world’s population as precisely as we adjust 
the course of a spaceship, or improve agriculture and in- 
dustry with some of the confidence with which we accel- 
erate high-energy particles, or move towards a peaceful 
world with something like the steady progress with which 
physics has approached absolute zero (even though both 
remain presumably out of reach). But a behavioural 
technology comparable in power and precision to physi- 
cal and biological technology is lacking, and those who 
do not find the very possibility ridiculous are more likely 
to be frightened by it than reassured. That is how far we 
are from ‘understanding human issues’ in the sense in 
which physics and biology understand their fields, and 
how far we are from preventing the catastrophe toward 
which the world seems to be inexorably moving. 

Twenty-five hundred years ago it might have been said 
that man understood himself as well as any other part of 
his world. Today he is the thing he understands least. 
Physics and biology have come a long way, but there has 
been no comparable development of anything like a 
science of human behaviour. Greek physics and biology 
are now of historical interest only (no modern physicist 
or biologist would turn to Aristotle for help), but the 
dialogues of Plato are still assigned to students and cited 
as if they threw light on human behaviour. Aristotle 
could not have understood a page of modern physics or 
biology, but Socrates and his friends would have little 
trouble in following most current discussions of human 
affairs. And as to technology, we have made immense 
strides in controlling the physical and biological worlds, 
but our practices in government, education, and much of 
economics, though adapted to very different conditions, 
have not greatly improved. 

We can scarcely explain this by saying that the Greeks 

12 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

knew all there was to know about human behaviour. Cer- 
tainly they knew more than they knew about the physical 
world, but it was still not much. Moreover, their way of 
thinking about human behaviour must have had some 
fatal flaw. Whereas Greek physics and biology, no matter 
how crude, led eventually to modem science, Greek 
theories of human behaviour led nowhere. If they are 
with us today, it is not because they possessed some kind 
of eternal verity, but because they did not contain the 
seeds of anything better. 

It can always be argued that human behaviour is a 
particularly difficult field. It is, and we are especially 
likely to think so just because we are so inept in dealing 
with it. But modern physics and biology successfully treat 
subjects that are certainly no simpler than many aspects 
of human behaviour. The difference is that the instru- 
ments and methods they use are of commensurate com- 
plexity. The fact that equally powerful instruments and 
methods are not available in the field of human be- 
haviour is not an explanation; it is only part of the 
puzzle. Was putting a man on the moon actually easier 
than improving education in our public schools? Or than 
constructing better kinds of living space for everyone? Or 
than making it possible for everyone to be gainfully em- 
ployed and, as a result, to enjoy a higher standard of 
living? The choice was not a matter of priorities, for no 
one could have said that it was more important to get to 
the moon. The exciting thing about getting to the moon 
was its feasibility. Science and technology had reached 
the point at which, with one great push, the thing could 
be done. There is no comparable excitement about the 
problems posed by human behaviour. We are not close to 

It is easy to conclude that there must be something 
about human behaviour which makes a scientific analysis. 

A Technology of Behaviour 13 

and hence an effective technology, impossible, but we 
have not by any means exhausted the possibilities. There 
is a sense in which it can be said that the methods of 
science have scarcely yet been applied to human behav- 
iour. We have used the instruments of science; we have 
counted and measured and compared; but something 
essential to scientific practice is missing in almost all cur- 
rent discussions of human behaviour. It has to do with 
our treatment of the causes of behaviour. (The term 
‘cause’ is no longer common in sophisticated scientific 
writing, but it will serve well enough here.) 

Man’s first experience with causes probably came from 
his own behaviour: things moved because he moved 
them. If other things moved, it was because someone else 
was moving them, and if the mover could not be seen, it 
was because he was invisible. The Greek gods served in 
this way as the causes of physical phenomena. They were 
usually outside the things they moved, but they might 
enter into and ‘possess’ them. Physics and biology soon 
abandoned explanations of this sort and turned to more 
useful kinds of causes, but the step has not been de- 
cisively taken in the field of human behaviour. Intelli- 
gent people no longer believe that men are possessed by 
demons (although the exorcism of devils is occasionally 
practised, and the daimonic has reappeared in the writ- 
ings of psychotherapists), but human behaviour is still 
commonly attributed to indwelling agents. A juvenile de- 
linquent is said, for example, to be suffering from a dis- 
turbed personality. There would be no point in saying it 
if the personality were not somehow distinct from the 
body which has got itself into trouble. The distinction is 
clear when one body is said to contain several person- 
alities which control it in different ways at different 
times. Psychoanalysts have identified three of these per- 
sonalities - the ego, superego, and id - and interactions 

14 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

among them are said to be responsible for the behaviour 
of the man in whom they dwell. 

Although physics soon stopped personifying things in 
this way, it continued for a long time to speak as if they 
had wills, impulses, feelings, purposes, and other frag- 
mentary attributes of an indwelling agent. According to 
Butterfield, Aristotle argued that a falling body accel- 
erated because it grew more jubilant as it found itself 
nearer home, and later authorities supposed that a pro- 
jectile was carried forward by an impetus, sometimes 
called an ‘impetuosity’. All this was eventually aban- 
doned, and to good effect, but the behavioural sciences 
still appeal to comparable internal states. No one is sur- 
prised to hear it said that a person carrying good news 
walks more rapidly because he feels jubilant, or acts care- 
lessly because of his impetuosity, or holds stubbornly to 
a course of action through sheer force of will. Careless 
references to purpose are still to be found in both physics 
and biology, but good practice has no place for them; yet 
almost everyone attributes human behaviour to inten- 
tions, purposes, aims, and goals. If it is still possible to ask 
whether a machine can show purpose, the question im- 
plies, significantly, that if it can it will more closely re- 
semble a man. 

Physics and biology moved farther away from personi- 
fied causes when they began to attribute the behaviour of 
things to essences, qualities, or natures. To the medieval 
alchemist, for example, some of the properties of a sub- 
stance might be due to the mercurial essence, and sub- 
stances were compared in what might have been called a 
‘chemistry of individual differences’. Newton complained 
of the practice in his contemporaries: ‘To tell us that 
every species of thing is endowed with an occult specific 
quality by which it acts and produces manifest effects is 
to tell us nothing.’ (Occult qualities were examples of the 

A Technology of Behaviour 15 

hypotheses Newton rejected when he said ‘Hypotheses 
non lingo’, though he was not quite as good as his word.) 
Biology continued for a long time to appeal to the nature 
of living things, and it did not wholly abandon vital 
forces until the twentieth century. Behaviour, however, 
is still attributed to human nature, and there is an ex- 
tensive ‘psychology of individual differences’ in which 
people are compared and described in terms of traits of 
character, capacities, and abilities. 

Almost everyone who is concerned with human affairs 
- as political scientist, philosopher, man of letters, econo- 
mist, psychologist, linguist, sociologist, theologian, anthro- 
pologist, educator, or psychotherapist - continues to talk 
about human behaviour in this pre-scientific way. Every 
issue of a daily paper, every magazine, every professional 
journal, every book with any bearing whatsoever on 
human behaviour will supply examples. We are told that 
to control the number of people in the world we need to 
change attitudes toward children, overcome pride in size 
of family or in sexual potency, build some sense of re- 
sponsibility towards offspring, and reduce the role played 
by a large family in allaying concern for old age. To work 
for peace we must deal with the will to power or the 
paranoid delusions of leaders; we must remember that 
wars begin in the minds of men, that there is something 
suicidal in man - a death instinct, perhaps - which leads 
to war, and that man is aggressive by nature. To solve the 
problems of the poor we must inspire self-respect, en- 
courage initiative, and reduce frustration. To allay the 
disaffection of the young we must provide a sense of pur- 
pose and reduce feelings of alienation or hopelessness. 
Realizing that we have no effective means of doing any of 
this, we ourselves may experience a crisis of belief or a 
loss of confidence, which can be corrected only by return- 
ing to a faith in man’s inner capacities. This is staple fare. 

1 6 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

Almost no one questions it. Yet there is nothing like it in 
modern physics or most of biology, and that fact may well 
explain why a science and a technology of behaviour 
have been so long delayed. 

It is usually supposed that the ‘behaviouristic’ objec- 
tion to ideas, feelings, traits of character, will, and so on 
concerns the stuff of which they are said to be made. Cer- 
tain stubborn questions about the nature of mind have, 
of course, been debated for more than twenty-five hun- 
dred years and still go unanswered. How, for example, 
can the mind move the body? As late as 1965 Karl Popper 
could put the question this way: ‘What we want is to 
understand how such non-physical things as purposes, de- 
liberations, plans, decisions, theories, tensions, and values 
can play a part in bringing about physical changes in the 
physical world.’ And, of course, we also want to know 
where these non-physical things come from. To that ques- 
tion the Greeks had a simple answer: from the gods. As 
Dodds has pointed out, the Greeks believed that if a man 
behaved foolishly, it was because a hostile god had 
planted arr) (infatuation) in his breast. A friendly god 
might give a warrior an extra amount of fievos, with the 
help of which he would fight brilliantly. Aristotle 
thought there was something divine in thought, and Zeno 
held that the intellect was God. 

We cannot take that line today, and the commonest 
alternative is to appeal to antecedent physical events. A 
person’s genetic endowment, a product of the evolution 
of the species, is said to explain part of the workings of 
his mind and his personal history the rest. For example, 
because of (physical) competition during the course of 
evolution people now have (non-physical) feelings of ag- 
gression which lead to (physical) acts of hostility. Or, the 
(physical) punishment a small child receives when he en- 

A Technology of Behaviour 17 

gages in sex play produces (non-physical) feelings of anxi- 
ety which interfere with his (physical) sexual behaviour 
as an adult. The non-physical stage obviously bridges 
long periods of time: aggression reaches back into mil- 
lions of years of evolutionary history, and anxiety ac- 
quired when one is a child survives into old age. 

The problem of getting from one kind of stuff to 
another could be avoided if everything were either men- 
tal or physical, and both these possibilities have been 
considered. Some philosophers have tried to stay within 
the world of the mind, arguing that only immediate ex- 
perience is real, and experimental psychology began as an 
attempt to discover the mental laws which governed in- 
teractions among mental elements. Contemporary ‘intra- 
psychic’ theories of psychotherapy tell us how one feeling 
leads to another (how frustration breeds aggression, for 
example), how feelings interact, and how feelings which 
have been put out of mind fight their way back in. The 
complementary line that the mental stage is really physi- 
cal was taken, curiously enough, by Freud, who believed 
that physiology would eventually explain the workings of 
the mental apparatus. In a similar vein, many physio- 
logical psychologists continue to talk freely about states 
of mind, feelings, and so on, in the belief that it is only a 
matter of time before we shall understand their physical 

The dimensions of the world of mind and the transi- 
tion from one world to another do raise embarrassing 
problems, but it is usually possible to ignore them, and 
this may be good strategy, for the important objection to 
mentalism is of a very different sort. The world of the 
mind steals the show. Behaviour is not recognized as a 
subject in its own right. In psychotherapy, for example, 
the disturbing things a person does or says are almost 
always regarded merely as symptoms, and compared with 

1 8 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

the fascinating dramas which are staged in the depths of 
the mind, behaviour itself seems superficial indeed. In 
linguistics and literary criticism what a man says is al- 
most always treated as the expression of ideas or feelings. 
In political science, theology, and economics, behaviour 
is usually regarded as the material from which one infers 
attitudes, intentions, needs, and so on. For more than 
twenty-five hundred years close attention has been paid 
to mental life, but only recently has any effort been made 
to study human behaviour as something more than a 
mere by-product. 

The conditions of which behaviour is a function are 
also neglected. The mental explanation brings curiosity 
to an end. We see the effect in casual discourse. If we ask 
someone, ‘Why did you go to the theatre?’ and he says, 
‘Because I felt like going,’ we are apt to take his reply, as a 
kind of explanation. It would be much more to the point 
to know what has happened when he has gone to the 
theatre in the past, what he heard or read about the play 
he went to see, and what other things in his past or 
present environments might have induced him to go (as 
opposed to doing something else), but we accept ‘I felt 
like going’ as a sort of summary of all this and are not 
likely to ask for details. 

The professional psychologist often stops at the same 
point. A long time ago William James corrected a pre- 
vailing view of the relation between feelings and action 
by asserting, for example, that we do not run away be- 
cause we are afraid but are afraid because we run away. 
In other words, what we feel when we feel afraid is our 
behaviour - the very behaviour which in the traditional 
view expresses the feeling and is explained by it. But how 
many of those who have considered James’s argument 
have noted that no antecedent event has in fact been 
pointed out? Neither ‘because’ should be taken seriously. 

A Technology of Behaviour 19 

No explanation has been given as to why we run away 
and feel afraid. 

Whether we regard ourselves as explaining feelings or 
the behaviour said to be caused by feelings, we give very 
little attention to antecedent circumstances. The psycho- 
therapist learns about the early life of his patient almost 
exclusively from the patient’s memories, which are 
known to be unreliable, and he may even argue that 
what is important is not what actually happened but 
what the patient remembers. In the psychoanalytic litera- 
ture there must be at least a hundred references to felt 
anxiety for every reference to a punishing episode to 
which anxiety might be traced. We even seem to prefer 
antecedent histories which are clearly out of reach. There 
is a good deal of current interest, for example, in what 
must have happened during the evolution of the species 
to explain human behaviour, and we seem to speak with 
special confidence just because what actually happened 
can only be inferred. 

Unable to understand how or why the person we see 
behaves as he does, we attribute his behaviour to a person 
we cannot see, whose behaviour we cannot explain either 
but about whom we are not inclined to ask questions. We 
probably adopt this strategy not so much because of any 
'lack of interest or power but because of a long-standing 
conviction that for much of human behaviour there are 
no relevant antecedents. The function of the inner man 
is to provide an explanation which will not be explained 
in turn. Explanation stops with him. He is not a medi- 
ator between past history and current behaviour, he is a 
centre from which behaviour emanates. He initiates, 
originates, and creates, and in doing so he remains, as he 
was for the Greeks, divine. We say that he is autonomous 
- and, so far as a science of behaviour is concerned, that 
means miraculous. 

so Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

The position is, of course, vulnerable. Autonomous 
man serves to explain only the things we are not yet able 
to explain in other ways. His existence depends upon our 
ignorance, and he naturally loses status as we come to 
know more about behaviour. The task of a scientific 
analysis is to explain how the behaviour of a person as a 
physical system is related to the conditions under which 
the human species evolved and the conditions under 
which the individual lives. Unless there is indeed some 
capricious or creative intervention, these events must be 
related, and no intervention is in fact needed. The con- 
tingencies of survival responsible for man's genetic en- 
dowment would produce tendencies to act aggressively, 
not feelings of aggression. The punishment of sexual be- 
haviour changes sexual behaviour, and any feelings 
which may arise are at best by-products. Our age is not 
suffering from anxiety but from the accidents, crimes, 
wars, and other dangerous and painful things to which 
people are so often exposed. Young people drop out of 
school, refuse to get jobs, and associate only with others 
of their own age not because they feel alienated but be- 
cause of defective social environments in homes, schools, 
factories, and elsewhere. 

We can follow the path taken by physics and biology 
by turning directly to the relation between behaviour 
and the environment and neglecting supposed mediating 
states of mind. Physics did not advance by looking more 
closely at the jubilance of a falling body, or biology by 
looking at the nature of vital spirits, and we do not need 
to try to discover what personalities, states of mind, feel- 
ings, traits of character, plans, purposes, intentions, or the 
other perquisites of autonomous man really are in order 
to get on with a scientific analysis of behaviour. 

There are reasons why it has taken us so long to reach 

A Technology of Behaviour 21 

this point. The things studied by physics and biology do 
not behave very much like people, and it eventually 
seems rather ridiculous to speak of the jubilance of a fall- 
ing body or the impetuosity of a projectile; but people do 
behave like people, and the outer man whose behaviour 
is to be explained could be very much like the inner man 
whose behaviour is said to explain it. The inner man has 
been created in the image of the outer. 

A more important reason is that the inner man seems 
at times to be directly observed. We must infer the jubi- 
lance of a falling body, but can we not feel our own jubi- 
lance? We do, indeed, feel things inside our own skin, 
but we do not feel the things which have been invented 
to explain behaviour. The possessed man does not feel 
the possessing demon and may even deny that one exists. 
The juvenile delinquent does not feel his disturbed per- 
sonality. The intelligent man does not feel his intelli- 
gence or the introvert his introversion. (In fact, these 
dimensions of mind or character are said to be observable 
only through complex statistical procedures.) The 
speaker does not feel the grammatical rules he is said to 
apply in composing sentences, and men spoke grammati- 
cally for thousands of years before anyone knew there 
were rules. The respondent to a questionnaire does not 
feel the attitudes or opinions which lead him to check 
items in particular ways. We do feel certain states of our 
bodies associated with behaviour, but as Freud pointed 
out we behave in the same way when we do not feel 
them; they are by-products and not to be mistaken for 

There is a much more important reason why we have 
been so slow in discarding mentalistic explanations: it 
has been hard to find alternatives. Presumably we must 
look for them in the external environment, but the role 

2 2 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

of the environment is by no means clear. The history of 
the theory of evolution illustrates the problem. Before 
the nineteenth century the environment was thought of 
simply as a passive setting in which many different kinds 
of organisms were bom, reproduced themselves, and died. 
No one saw that the environment was responsible for the 
fact that there were many different kinds (and that fact, 
significantly enough, was attributed to a creative Mind). 
The trouble was that the environment acts in an incon- 
spicuous way: it does not push or pull, it selects. For 
thousands of years in the history of human thought the 
process of natural selection went unseen in spite of its 
extraordinary importance. When it was eventually dis- 
covered, it became, of course, the key to evolutionary 

The effect of the environment on behaviour remained 
obscure for an even longer time. We can see what organ- 
isms do to the world around them, as they take from it 
what they need and ward off its dangers, but it is much 
harder to see what the world does to them. It was Des- 
cartes who first suggested that the environment might 
play an active role in the determination of behaviour, 
and he was apparently able to do so only because he was 
given a strong hint. He knew about certain automata in 
the Royal Gardens of France which were operated hy- 
draulically by concealed valves. As Descartes described it, 
people entering the gardens ‘necessarily tread on certain 
tiles or plates, which are so disposed that if they approach 
a bathing Diana, they cause her to hide in the rosebushes, 
and if they try to follow her, they cause a Neptune to 
come forward to meet them, threatening them with his 
trident’. The figures were entertaining just because they 
behaved like people, and it appeared, therefore, that 
something very much like human behaviour could be ex- 
plained mechanically. Descartes took the hint: living 

A Technology of Behaviour 23 

organisms might move for similar reasons. (He excluded 
the human organism, presumably to avoid religious con- 

The triggering action of the environment came to be 
called a ‘stimulus’ - the Latin for goad - and the effect on 
an organism a ‘response’, and together they were said to 
compose a ‘reflex’. Reflexes were first demonstrated in 
small decapitated animals, such as salamanders, and it is 
significant that the principle was challenged throughout 
the nineteenth century because it seemed to deny the 
existence of an autonomous agent - the ‘soul of the spinal 
cord’ - to which movement of a decapitated body had 
been attributed. When Pavlov showed how new reflexes 
could be built up through conditioning, a full-fledged 
stimulus-response psychology was born, in which all be- 
haviour was regarded as reactions to stimuli. One writer 
put it this way: ‘We are prodded or lashed through life.’ 
The stimulus-response model was never very convincing, 
however, and it did not solve the basic problem, because 
something like an inner man had to be invented to con- 
vert a stimulus into a response. Information theory ran 
into the same problem when an inner ‘processer’ had to 
be invented to convert input into output. 

The effect of an eliciting stimulus is relatively easy to 
see, and it is not surprising that Descartes’s hypothesis 
held a dominant position in behaviour theory for a long 
time, but it was a false scent from which a scientific 
analysis is only now recovering. The environment not 
only prods or lashes, it selects. Its role is similar to that in 
natural selection, though on a very different time scale, 
and was overlooked for the same reason. It is now clear 
that we must take into account what the environment 
does to an organism not only before but after it responds. 
Behaviour is shaped and maintained by its consequences. 
Once this fact is recognized we can formulate the inter- 

«4 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

action between organism and environment in a much 
more comprehensive way. 

There are two important results. One concerns the 
basic analysis. Behaviour which operates upon the en- 
vironment to produce consequences (‘operant’ behaviour) 
can be studied by arranging environments in which 
specific consequences are contingent upon it. The contin- 
gencies under investigation have become steadily more 
complex, and one by one they are taking over the ex- 
planatory functions previously assigned to personalities, 
states of mind, feelings, traits of character, purposes, and 
intentions. The second result is practical: the environ- 
ment can be manipulated. It is true that man’s genetic 
endowment can be changed only very slowly, but changes 
in the environment of the individual have quick and 
dramatic effects. A technology of operant behaviour is, as 
we shall see, already well advanced, and it may prove to 
be commensurate with our problems. 

That possibility raises another problem, however, 
which must be solved if we are to take advantage of our 
gains. We have moved forward by dispossessing autono- 
mous man, but he has not departed gracefully. He is 
conducting a sort of rear guard action in which, unfortu- 
nately, he can marshal formidable support. He is still an 
important figure in political science, law, religion, eco- 
nomics, anthropology, sociology, psychotherapy, philos- 
ophy, ethics, history, education, child care, linguistics, 
architecture, city planning, and family life. These fields 
have their specialists, and every specialist has a theory, 
and in almost every theory the autonomy of the indi- 
vidual is unquestioned. The inner man is not seriously 
threatened by data obtained through casual observation 
or from studies of the structure of behaviour, and many 
of these fields deal only with groups of people, where 
statistical or actuarial data impose few restraints upon 

A Technology of Behaviour 25 

the individual. The result is a tremendous weight of tra- 
ditional ‘knowledge’, which must be corrected or dis- 
placed by a scientific analysis. 

Two features of autonomous man are particularly 
troublesome. In the traditional view a person is free. He 
is autonomous in the sense that his behaviour is un- 
caused. He can therefore be held responsible for what he 
does and justly punished if he offends. That view, to- 
gether with its associated practices, must be re-examined 
when a scientific analysis reveals unsuspected controlling 
relations between behaviour and environment. A certain 
amount of external control can be tolerated. Theologians 
have accepted the fact that man must be predestined to 
do what an omniscient God knows he will do, and the 
Greek dramatist took inexorable fate as his favourite 
theme. Soothsayers and astrologers often claim to predict 
what men will do, and they have always been in demand. 
Biographers and historians have searched for ‘influences’ 
in the lives of individuals and peoples. Folk wisdom and 
the insights of essayists like Montaigne and Bacon imply 
some kind of predictability in human conduct, and the 
statistical and actuarial evidences of the social sciences 
point in the same direction. 

Autonomous man survives in the face of all this because 
he is the happy exception. Theologians have recon- 
ciled predestination with free will, and the Greek audi- 
ence, moved by the portrayal of an inescapable destiny, 
walked out of the theatre free men. The course of history 
has been turned by the death of a leader or a storm at sea, 
as a life has been changed by, a teacher or a love affair, 
but these things do not happen to everyone, and they do 
not affect everyone in the same way. Some historians have 
made a virtue of the unpredictability of history. Actu- 
arial evidence is easily ignored; we read that hundreds of 

*6 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

people will be killed in traffic accidents on a holiday 
weekend and take to the road as if personally exempt. 
Very little behavioural science raises ‘the spectre of pre- 
dictable man . On the contrary, many anthropologists, 
sociologists, and psychologists have used their expert 
knowledge to prove that man is free, purposeful, and re- 
sponsible. Freud was a determinist - on faith, if not on 
the evidence - but many Freudians have no hesitation in 
assuring their patients that they are free to choose among 
different courses of action and are in the long run the 
architects of their own destinies. 

This escape route is slowly closed as new evidences of 
the predictability of human behaviour are discovered. 
Personal exemption from a complete determinism is re- 
voked as a scientific analysis progresses, particularly in 
accounting for the behaviour of the individual. Joseph 
Wood Krutch has acknowledged the actuarial facts while 
insisting on personal freedom: ‘We can predict with a 
considerable degree of accuracy how many people will go 
to the seashore on a day when the temperature reaches a 
certain point, even how many will jump off a bridge 
although I am not, nor are you, compelled to do either.’ 
But he can scarcely mean that those who go to the sea- 
shore do not go for good reason, or that circumstances in 
the life of a suicide do not have some bearing on the fact 
that he jumps off a bridge. The distinction is tenable 
only so long as a word like ‘compel’ suggests a par- 
ticularly conspicuous and forcible mode of control. A 
scientific analysis naturally moves in the direction of 
clarifying all kinds of controlling relations. 

By questioning the control exercised by autonomous 
man and demonstrating the control exercised by the en- 
vironment, a science of behaviour also seems to question 
dignity or worth. A person is responsible for his behav- 
iour, not only in the sense that he may be justly blamed or 

A Technology of Behaviour 27 

punished when he behaves badly, but also in the sense 
that he is to be given credit and admired for his achieve- 
ments. A scientific analysis shifts the credit as well as the 
blame to the environment, and traditional practices can 
then no longer be justified. These are sweeping changes, 
and those who are committed to traditional theories and 
practices naturally resist them. 

There is a third source of trouble. As the emphasis 
shifts to the environment, the individual seems to be ex- 
posed to a new kind of danger. Who is to construct the 
controlling environment and to what end? Autonomous 
man presumably controls himself in accordance with a 
built-in set of values; he works for what he finds good. 
But what will the putative controller find good, and will 
it be good for those he controls? Answers to questions of 
this sort are said, of course, to call for value judgements. 

Freedom, dignity, and value are major issues, and un- 
fortunately they become more crucial as the power of a 
technology of behaviour becomes more nearly commen- 
surate with the problems to be solved. The very change 
which has brought some hope of a solution is responsible 
for a growing opposition to the kind of solution pro- 
posed. This conflict is itself a problem in human be- 
haviour and may be approached as such. A science of 
■behaviour is by no means as far advanced as physics or 
biology, but it has an advantage in that it may throw 
some light on its own difficulties. Science is human be- 
haviour, and so is the opposition to science. What has 
happened in man's struggle for freedom and dignity, and 
what problems arise when scientific knowledge begins to 
be relevant in that struggle? Answers to these questions 
may help to clear the way for the technology we so badly 

In what follows, these issues are discussed ‘from a 

«8 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

scientific point of view’, but this does not mean that the 
reader will need to know the details of a scientific analysis 
of behaviour. A mere interpretation will suffice. The 
nature of such an interpretation is, however, easily mis- 
understood. We often talk about things we cannot observe 
or measure with the precision demanded by a scientific 
analysis, and in doing so there is much to be gained from 
using terms and principles which have been worked out 
under more precise conditions. The sea at dusk glows 
with a strange light, frost forms on the windowpane in an 
unusual pattern, and the soup fails to thicken on thei 
stove, and specialists tell us why. We can, of course, chal- 
lenge them: they do not have ‘the facts’, and what they 
say cannot be ‘proved’, but they are nevertheless more 
likely to be right than those who lack an experimental 
background, and they alone can tell us how to move on 
to a more precise study if it seems worth while. 

An experimental analysis of behaviour offers similar 
advantages. When we have observed behavioural pro- 
cesses under controlled conditions we can more easily 
spot them in the world at large. We can identify signifi- 
cant features of behaviour and of the environment and 
are therefore able to neglect insignificant ones, no matter 
how fascinating they may be. We can reject traditional 
explanations if they have been tried and found wanting 
in an experimental analysis and then press forward in 
our inquiry with unallayed curiosity. The instances of 
behaviour cited in what follows are not offered as ‘proof’ 
of the interpretation. The proof is to be found in the 
basic analysis. The principles used in interpreting the in- 
stances have a plausibility which would be lacking in 
principles drawn entirely from casual observation. 

The text will often seem inconsistent. English, like all 
languages, is full of pre-scientific terms which usually 
suffice for purposes of casual discourse. No one looks 

A T echnology of Behaviour g 9 

askance at the astronomer when he says that the sun rises 
or that the stars come out at night, for it would be ridicu- 
lous to insist that he should always say that the sun ap- 
pears over the horizon as the earth turns or that the stars 
become visible as the atmosphere ceases to refract sun- 
light. All we ask is that he can give a more precise trans- 
lation if one is needed. The English language contains 
many more expressions referring to human behaviour 
than to other aspects of the world, and technical alterna- 
tives are much less familiar. The use of casual expressions 
is therefore much more likely to be challenged. It may 
seem inconsistent to ask the reader to ‘keep a point in 
mind’ when he has been told that mind is an explanatory 
fiction, or to ‘consider the idea of freedom’ if an idea is 
simply an imagined precursor of behaviour, or to speak of 
‘reassuring those who fear a science of behaviour’ when 
all that is meant is changing their behaviour with respect 
to such a science. The book could have been written for a 
technical reader without expressions of that sort, but the 
issues are important to the non-specialist and need to be 
discussed in a non-technical fashion. No doubt many of 
the mentalistic expressions imbedded in the English lan- 
guage cannot be as rigorously translated as ‘sunrise’, but 
acceptable translations are not out of reach. 


Almost all our major problems involve human behav- 
iour, and they cannot be solved by physical and biological 
technology alone. What is needed is a technology of be- 
haviour, but we have been slow to develop the science 
from which such a technology might be drawn. One diffi- 
culty is that almost all of what is called behavioural 
science continues to trace behaviour to states of mind, 
feelings, traits of character, human nature, and so on. 
Physics and biology once followed similar practices and 

30 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

advanced only when they discarded them. The behav- 
ioural sciences have been slow to change partly because 
the explanatory entities often seem to be directly ob- 
served and partly because other kinds of explanations 
have been hard to find. The environment is obviously 
important, but its role has remained obscure. It does not 
push or pull, it selects, and this function is difficult to 
discover and analyse. The role of natural selection in 
evolution was formulated only a little more than a hun- 
dred years ago, and the selective role of the environment 
in shaping and maintaining the behaviour of the indi- 
vidual is only beginning to be recognized and studied. As 
the interaction between organism and environment has 
come to be understood, however, effects once assigned to 
states of mind, feelings, and traits are beginning to be 
traced to accessible conditions, and a technology of be- 
haviour may therefore become available. It will not solve 
our problems, however, until it replaces traditional pre- 
scientific views, and these are strongly entrenched. Free- 
dom and dignity illustrate the difficulty. They are the 
possessions of the autonomous man of traditional theory, 
and they are essential to practices in which a person is 
held responsible for his conduct and given credit for his 
achievements. A scientific analysis shifts both the respon- 
sibility and the achievement to the environment. It also 
raises questions concerning ‘values’. Who will use a tech- 
nology and to what ends? Until these issues are resolved, 
a technology of behaviour will continue to be rejected, 
and with it possibly the only way to solve our problems. 



Almost all living things act to free themselves from harm- 
ful contacts. A kind of freedom is achieved by the rela- 
tively simple forms of behaviour called reflexes. A person 
sneezes and frees his respiratory passages from irritating 
substances. He vomits and frees his stomach from indi- 
gestible or poisonous food. He pulls back his hand and 
frees it from a sharp or hot object. More elaborate forms 
of behaviour have similar effects. When confined, people 
struggle (‘in rage’) and break free. When in danger they 
flee from or attack its source. Behaviour of this kind pre- 
sumably evolved because of its survival value; it is as 
much a part of what we call the human genetic endow- 
ment as breathing, sweating, or digesting food. And 
through conditioning similar behaviour may be acquired 
with respect to novel objects which could have played no 
role in evolution. These are no doubt minor instances of 
! the struggle to be free, but they are significant. We do not 
attribute them to any love of freedom; they are simply 
forms of behaviour which have proved useful in reducing 
various threats to the individual and hence to the species 
in the course of evolution. 

A much more important role is played by behaviour 
which weakens harmful stimuli in another way. It is not 
acquired in the form of conditioned reflexes, but as the 
product of a different process called operant condition- 
ing. When a bit of behaviour is followed by a certain 

3* Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

kind of consequence, it is more likely to occur again, and 
a consequence having this effect is called a reinforcer. 
Food, for example, is a reinforcer to a hungry organism; 
anything the organism does that is followed by the re- 
ceipt of food is more likely to be done again whenever 
the organism is hungry. Some stimuli are called negative 
reinforcers; any response which reduces the intensity of 
such a stimulus - or ends it - is more likely to be emitted 
when the stimulus recurs. Thus, if a person escapes from 
a hot sun when he moves under cover, he is more likely to 
move under cover when the sun is again hot. The reduc- 
tion in temperature reinforces the behaviour it is ‘contin- 
gent upon’ - that is, the behaviour it follows. Operant 
conditioning also occurs when a person simply avoids a 
hot sun - when, roughly speaking, he escapes from the 
threat of a hot sun. 

Negative reinforcers are called aversive in the sense 
that they are the things organisms ‘turn away from’. The 
term suggests a spatial separation - moving or running 
away from something - but the essential relation is tem- 
poral. In a standard apparatus used to study the process 
in the laboratory, an arbitrary response simply weakens 
an aversive stimulus or brings it to an end. A great deal 
of physical technology is the result of this kind of struggle 
for freedom. Over the centuries, in erratic ways, men have 
constructed a world in which they are relatively free of 
many kinds of threatening or harmful stimuli - extremes 
of temperature, sources of infection, hard labour, danger, 
and even those minor aversive stimuli called discomfort. 

Escape and avoidance play a much more important 
role in the struggle for freedom when the aversive con- 
ditions are generated by other people. Other people can 
be aversive without, so to speak, trying: they can be 
rude, dangerous, contagious, or annoying, and one es- 

Freedom 33 

capes from them or avoids them accordingly. They may 
also be ‘intentionally’ aversive - that is, they may treat 
bther people aversively because of what follows. Thus a 
slave driver induces a slave to work by whipping him 
when he stops; by resuming work the slave escapes from 
the whipping (and incidentally reinforces the slave 
driver’s behaviour in using the whip). A parent nags a 
child until the child performs a task; by performing the 
task the child escapes nagging (and reinforces the par- 
ent’s behaviour). The blackmailer threatens exposure un- 
less the victim pays; by paying, the victim escapes from 
the threat (and reinforces the practice). A teacher threat- 
ens corporal punishment or failure until his students pay 
attention; by paying attention the students escape from 
the threat of punishment (and reinforce the teacher for 
threatening it). In one form or another intentional aver- 
sive control is the pattern of most social coordination - in 
ethics, religion, government, economics, education, psy- 
chotherapy, and family life. 

A person escapes from or avoids aversive treatment by 
behaving in ways which reinforce those who treated him 
aversively until he did so, but he may escape in other 
ways. For example, he may simply move out of range. A 
person may escape from slavery, emigrate or defect from a 
government, desert from an army, become an apostate 
from a religion, play truant, leave home, or drop out of 
a culture as a hobo, hermit, or hippie. Such behaviour is 
as much a product of the aversive conditions as the 
behaviour the conditions were designed to evoke. The 
latter can be guaranteed only by sharpening the con- 
tingencies or by using stronger aversive stimuli. 

Another anomalous mode of escape is to attack those 
who arrange aversive conditions and weaken or destroy 
their power. We may attack those who crowd us or annoy 
us, as we attack the weeds in our garden, but again the 

34 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

struggle for freedom is mainly directed towards inten- 
tional controllers - towards those who treat others aver- 
sively in order to induce them to behave in particular 
ways. Thus, a child may stand up to his parents, a citizen 
may overthrow a government, a communicant may re- 
form a religion, a student may attack a teacher or van- 
dalize a school, and a drop-out may work to destroy a 

It is possible that man’s genetic endowment supports 
this kind of struggle for freedom : when treated aversively 
people tend to act aggressively or to be reinforced by signi 
of having worked aggressive damage. Both tendencies 
should have had evolutionary advantages, and they 
can easily be demonstrated. If two organisms which 
have been coexisting peacefully receive painful shocks, 
they immediately exhibit characteristic patterns of ag- 
gression towards each other. The aggressive behaviour is 
not necessarily directed towards the actual source of stim- 
ulation; it may be ‘displaced’ towards any convenient 
person or' object. Vandalism and riots are often forms of 
undirected or misdirected aggression. An organism which 
has received a painful shock will also, if possible, act to 
gain access to another organism towards which it can act 
aggressively. The extent to which human aggression ex- 
emplifies innate tendencies is not clear, and many of the 
ways in which people attack and thus weaken or destroy 
the power of intentional controllers are quite obviously 

What we may call the ‘literature of freedom’ has been 
designed to induce people to escape from or attack those 
who act to control them aversively. The content of the 
literature is the philosophy of freedom, but philosophies 
are among those inner causes which need to be scrutin- 
ized. We say that a person behaves in a given way because 

Freedom 35 

he possesses a philosophy, but we infer the philosophy 
from the behaviour and therefore cannot use it in any 
satisfactory way as an explanation, at least until it is in 
turn explained. The literature of freedom, on the other 
hand, has a simple objective status. It consists of books, 
pamphlets, manifestoes, speeches, and other verbal pro- 
ducts, designed to induce people to act to free themselves 
from various kinds of intentional control. It does not 
impart a philosophy of freedom; it induces people to 

The literature often emphasizes the aversive conditions 
under which people live, perhaps by contrasting them 
with conditions in a freer world. It thus makes the con- 
ditions more aversive, ‘increasing the misery’ of those it is 
trying to rescue. It also identifies those from whom one is 
to escape or those whose power is to be weakened through 
attack. Characteristic villains of the literature are tyrants, 
priests, generals, capitalists, martinet teachers, and domi- 
neering parents. 

The literature also prescribes modes of action. It has 
not been much concerned with escape, possibly because 
advice has not been needed; instead, it has emphasized 
how controlling power may be weakened or destroyed. 
Tyrants are to be overthrown, ostracized, or assassinated. 
‘The legitimacy of a government is to be questioned. The 
ability of a religious agency to mediate supernatural 
sanctions is to be challenged. Strikes and boycotts are to 
be organized to weaken the economic power which sup- 
ports aversive practices. The argument is strengthened by 
exhorting people to act, describing likely results, review- 
ing successful instances on the model of the advertising 
testimonial, and so on. 

The would-be controllers do not, of course, remain in- 
active. Governments make escape impossible by banning 
travel or severely punishing or incarcerating defectors. 

36 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

They keep weapons and other sources of power out of the 
hands of revolutionaries. They destroy the written litera- 
ture of freedom and imprison or kill those who carry it 
orally. If the struggle for freedom is to succeed, it must 
then be intensified. 

The importance of the literature of freedom can 
scarcely be questioned. Without help or guidance people 
submit to aversive conditions in the most surprising way. 
This is true even when the aversive conditions are part of 
the natural environment. Darwin observed, for example, 
that the Fuegians seemed to make no effort to protect' 
themselves from the cold; they wore only scant clothing 
and made little use of it against the weather. And one of 
the most striking things about the struggle for freedom 
from intentional control is how often it has been lacking. 
Many people have submitted to the most obvious re- 
ligious, governmental, and economic controls for cen- 
turies, striking for freedom only sporadically, if at all. The 
literature of freedom has made an essential contribution 
to the elimination of many aversive practices in govern- 
ment, religion, education, family life, and the production 
of goods. 

The contributions of the literature of freedom, how- 
ever, are not usually described in these terms. Some tradi- 
tional theories could conceivably be said to define free- 
dom as the absence of aversive control, but the emphasis 
has been on how that condition feels. Other traditional 
theories could conceivably be said to define freedom as a 
person's condition when he is behaving under non-aver- 
sive control, but the emphasis has been upon a state of 
mind associated with doing what one wants. According to 
John Stuart Mill, ‘Liberty consists in doing what one de- 
sires.’ The literature of freedom has been important in 
changing practice (it has changed practices whenever it 
has had any effect whatsoever), but it has nevertheless 

Freedom 37 

defined its task, as the changing of states of mind and 
feelings. Freedom is a ‘possession’. A person escapes from 
or destroys the power of a controller in order to feel free, 
and once he feels free and can do what he desires, no 
further action is recommended and none is prescribed by 
the literature of freedom, except perhaps eternal vigil- 
ance lest control be resumed. 

The feeling of freedom becomes an unreliable guide to 
action as soon as would-be controllers turn to non-aver- 
sive measures, as they are likely to do to avoid the prob- 
lems raised when the controllee escapes or attacks. 
Non-aversive measures are not as conspicuous as aversive 
and are likely to be acquired more slowly, but they have 
obvious advantages which promote their use. Productive 
labour, for example, was once the result of punishment: 
the slave worked to avoid the consequences of not work- 
ing. Wages exemplify a different principle; a person is paid 
when he behaves in a given way so that he will continue 
to behave in that way. Although it has long been recog- 
nized that rewards have useful effects, wage systems have 
evolved slowly. In the nineteenth century it was believed 
that an industrial society required a hungry labour force; 
wages would be effective only if the hungry worker could 
■exchange them for food. By making labour less aversive - 
for instance, by shortening hours and improving condi- 
tions - it has been possible to get men to work for lesser 
rewards. Until recently teaching was almost entirely aver- 
sive: the student studied to escape the consequences of 
not studying, but non-aversive techniques are gradually 
being discovered and used. The skilful parent learns to 
reward a child for good behaviour rather than punish 
him for bad. Religious agencies move from the threat of 
hellfire to an emphasis on God’s love, and governments 
turn from aversive sanctions to various kinds of induce- 

38 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

ments, as we shall note again shortly. What the layman 
calls a reward is a ‘positive reinforcer’, the effects of which 
have been exhaustively studied in the experimental analy- 
sis of operant behaviour. The effects are not as easily 
recognized as those of aversive contingencies because they 
tend to be deferred, and applications have therefore been 
delayed, but techniques as powerful as the older aversive 
techniques are now available. 

A problem arises for the defender of freedom when the 
behaviour generated by positive reinforcement has de- 
ferred aversive consequences. This is particularly likely 
to be the case when the process is used in intentional 
control, where the gain to the controller usually means a 
loss to the controllee. What are called conditioned posi- 
tive reinforcers can often be used with deferred aversive 
results. Money is an example. It is reinforcing only after 
it has been exchanged for reinforcing things, but it can 
be used as a reinforcer when exchange is impossible. A 
counterfeit bill, a bad cheque, a stopped cheque, or an 
unkept promise are conditioned reinforcers, although 
aversive consequences are usually quickly discovered. 
The archetypal pattern is the gold brick. Countercontrol 
quickly follows: we escape from or attack those who mis- 
use conditioned reinforcers in this way. But the misuse of 
many social reinforcers often goes unnoticed. Personal at- 
tention, approval, and affection are usually reinforcing 
only if there has been some connection with already effec- 
tive reinforcers, but they can be used when a connection 
is lacking. The simulated approval and affection with 
which parents and teachers are often urged to solve be- 
haviour problems are counterfeit. So are flattery, back- 
slapping, and many other ways of ‘winning friends’. 

Genuine reinforcers can be used in ways which have 
aversive consequences. A government may prevent defec- 
tion by making life more interesting - by providing 

Freedom 39 

bread and circuses and by encouraging sports, gambling, 
the use of alcohol and other drugs, and various kinds of 
sexual behaviour, where the effect is to keep people with- 
in reach of aversive sanctions. The Goncourt brothers 
noted the rise of pornography in the France of their day: 
‘Pornographic literature’, they wrote, ‘serves a Bas- 
Empire one tames a people as one tames lions, by 

Genuine positive reinforcement can also be misused 
because the sheer quantity of reinforcers is not propor- 
tional to the effect on behaviour. Reinforcement is usu- 
ally only intermittent, and the schedule of reinforcement 
is more important than the amount received. Certain 
schedules generate a great deal of behaviour in return for 
very little reinforcement, and the possibility has natu- 
rally not been overlooked by would-be controllers. Two 
examples of schedules which are easily used to the dis- 
advantage of those reinforced may be noted. 

In the incentive system known as piece-work pay, the 
worker is paid a given amount for each unit of work per- 
formed. The system seems to guarantee a balance be- 
tween the goods produced and the money received. The 
schedule is attractive to management, which can calcu- 
late labour costs in advance, and also to the worker, who 
can control the amount he earns. This so-called ‘fixed- 
ratio’ schedule of reinforcement can, however, be used to 
generate a great deal of behaviour for very little return. 
It induces the worker to work fast, and the ratio can then 
be ‘stretched’ - that is, more work can be demanded for 
each unit of pay without running the risk that the worker 
will stop working. His ultimate condition - hard work 
with very little pay - may be acutely aversive. 

A related schedule, called variable-ratio, is at the heart 
of all gambling systems. A gambling enterprise pays 
people for giving it money - that is, it pays them when 

40 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

they make bets. But it pays on a kind of schedule which 
sustains betting even though, in the long run, the 
amount paid is less than the amount wagered. At first the 
mean ratio may be favourable to the bettor; he ‘wins’. 
But the ratio can be stretched in such a way that he con- 
tinues to play even when he begins to lose. The stretch- 
ing may be accidental (an early run of good luck which 
grows steadily worse may create a dedicated gambler), or 
the ratio may be deliberately stretched by someone who 
controls the odds. In the long run the ‘utility’ is nega- 
tive : the gambler loses all. 

It is difficult to deal effectively with deferred aversive 
consequences because they do not occur at a time when 
escape or attack is feasible - when, for example, the con- 
troller can be identified or is within reach. But the im- 
mediate reinforcement is positive and goes unchallenged. 
The problem to be solved by those who are concerned 
with freedom is to create immediate aversive conse- 
quences. A classical problem concerns ‘self-control’. A 
person eats too much and gets sick but survives to eat too 
much again. Delicious food or the behaviour evoked by it 
must be made sufficiently aversive so that a person will 
'escape from it’ by not eating it. (It might be thought that 
he can escape from it only before eating it, but the 
Romans escaped afterwards through the use of a vomi- 
torium.) Current aversive stimuli may be conditioned. 
Something of the sort is done when eating too much is 
called wrong, gluttonous, or sinful. Other kinds of be- 
haviour to be suppressed may be declared illegal and 
punished accordingly. The more deferred the aversive 
consequences, the greater the problem. It has taken a 
great deal of ‘engineering’ to bring the ultimate conse- 
quences of smoking cigarettes to bear on the behaviour. 
A fascinating hobby, a sport, a love affair, or a large 
salary may compete with activities which would be more 

Freedom 41 

reinforcing in the long run, but the run is too long to 
make countercontrol possible. That is why countercon- 
trol is exerted, if at all, only by those who suffer aversive 
consequences but are not subject to positive reinforce- 
ment. Laws are passed against gambling, unions oppose 
piece-work pay, and no one is allowed to pay young chil- 
dren to work for them or to pay anyone for engaging in 
immoral behaviour, but these measures may be strongly 
opposed by those whom they are designed to protect. The 
gambler objects to anti-gambling laws and the alcoholic 
to any kind of prohibition; and a child or prostitute may 
be willing to work for what is offered. 

The literature of freedom has never come to grips with 
techniques of control which do not generate escape or 
counterattack because it has dealt with the problem in 
terms of states of mind and feelings. In his book Sover- 
eignty, Bertrand de Jouvenel quotes two important fig- 
ures in that literature. According to Leibniz, ‘Liberty 
consists in the power to do what one wants to do’, and 
according to Voltaire, ‘When I can do what I want to do, 
there is my liberty for me.’ But both writers add a con- 
cluding phrase: Leibniz, '...or in the power to want 
what can be got’, and Voltaire, more candidly, ‘. . . but I 
can’t help wanting what I do want’. Jouvenel relegates 
these comments to a footnote, saying that the power to 
want is a matter of ‘interior liberty’ (the freedom of the 
inner man I ) which falls outside the ‘gambit of freedom’. 

A person wants something if he acts to get it when the 
occasion arises. A person who says ‘I want something to 
eat’ will presumably eat when something becomes avail- 
able. If he says ‘I want to get warm,’ he will presumably 
move into a warm place when he can. These acts have 
been reinforced in the past by whatever was wanted. 
What a person feels when he feels himself wanting some- 

4* Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

thing depends upon the circumstances. Food is reinforc- 
ing only in a state of deprivation, and a person who 
wants something to eat may feel parts of that state - for 
example, hunger pangs. A person who wants to get warm 
presumably feels cold. Conditions associated with a high 
probability of responding may also be felt, together with 
aspects of the present occasion which are similar to those 
of past occasions upon which behaviour has been rein- 
forced. Wanting is not, however, a feeling, nor is a feeling 
the reason a person acts to get what he wants. Certain 
contingencies have raised the probability of behaviour 
and at the same time have created conditions which may 
be felt. Freedom is a matter of contingencies of reinforce- 
ment, not of the feelings the contingencies generate. The 
distinction is particularly important when the contin- 
gencies do not generate escape or counterattack. 

The uncertainty which surrounds the countercontrol 
of non-aversive measures is easily exemplified. In the 
1930s it seemed necessary to cut agricultural production. 
The Agricultural Adjustment Act authorized the Secre- 
tary of Agriculture to make ‘rental or benefit payments’ 
to farmers who agreed to produce less - to pay the 
farmers, in fact, what they would have made on the food 
they agreed not to produce. It would have been unconsti- 
tutional to compel them to reduce production, but the 
government argued that it was merely inviting them to 
do so. But the Supreme Court recognized that positive 
inducement can be as irresistible as aversive measures 
when it ruled that ‘the power to confer or withhold un- 
limited benefit is the power to coerce or destroy’. The 
decision was later reversed, however, when the Court 
ruled that ‘to hold that motive or temptation is equiv- 
alent to coercion is to plunge the law into endless diffi- 
culties’. We are considering some of these difficulties. 

The same issue arises when a government runs a lottery 

Freedom 43 

in order to raise revenue to reduce taxes. The govern- 
ment takes the same amount of money from its citizens in 
both cases, though not necessarily from the same citizens. 
By running a lottery it avoids certain unwanted conse- 
quences: people escape from heavy taxation by moving 
away or they counterattack by throwing a government 
which imposes new taxes out of office. A lottery, taking 
advantage of a stretched variable-ratio schedule of rein- 
forcement, has neither of these effects. The only opposi- 
tion comes from those who in general oppose gambling 
enterprises and who are themselves seldom gamblers. 

A third example is the practice of inviting prisoners to 
volunteer for possibly dangerous experiments - for ex- 
ample, on new drugs - in return for better living condi- 
tions or shortened sentences. Everyone would protest if 
the prisoners were forced to participate, but are they 
really free when positively reinforced, particularly when 
the condition to be improved or the sentence to be short- 
ened has been imposed by the state? 

The issue often arises in more subtle forms. It has been 
argued, for example, that uncontrolled contraceptive ser- 
vices and abortion do not ‘confer unrestricted freedom to 
reproduce or not to reproduce because they cost time and 
money’. Impoverished members of society should be 
given compensation if they are to have a truly ‘free 
choice’. If the just compensation exactly offsets the time 
and money needed to practise birth control, then people 
will indeed be free of the control exerted by the loss of 
time and money, but whether or not they then have chil- 
dren will still depend upon other conditions which have 
not been specified. If a nation generously reinforces the 
practices of contraception and abortion, to what extent 
are its citizens free to have or not to have children? 

Uncertainty about positive control is evident in two 
remarks which often appear in the literature of freedom. 

44 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

It is said that even though behaviour is completely de- 
termined, it is better that a man ‘feel free’ or ‘believe that 
he is free’. If this means that it is better to be controlled 
in ways which have no aversive consequences, we may 
a'gree, but if it means that it is better to be controlled in 
ways against which no one revolts, it fails to take account 
of the possibility of deferred aversive consequences. A 
second comment seems more appropriate: ‘It is better to 
be a conscious slave than a happy one.’ The word ‘slave’ 
clarifies the nature of the ultimate consequences being 
considered: they are exploitative and hence aversive. 
What the slave is to be conscious of is his misery; and a 
system of slavery so well designed that it does not breed 
revolt is the real threat. The literature of freedom has 
been designed to make men ‘conscious’ of aversive con- 
trol, but in its choice of methods it has failed to rescue 
the happy slave. 

One of the great figures in the literature of freedom, 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, did not fear the power of positive 
reinforcement. In his remarkable book Emile he gave the 
following advice to teachers: 

Let [the child] believe that he is always in control, though 
it is always you [the teacher] who really controls. There is no 
subjugation so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of 
freedom, for in that way one captures volition itself. The 
poor baby, knowing nothing, able to do nothing, having 
learned nothing, is he not at your mercy? Can you not arrange 
everything in the world which surrounds him? Can you not 
influence him as you wish? His work, his play, his pleasures, 
his pains, are not all these in your hands and without his 
knowing? Doubtless he ought to do only what he wants; but 
he ought to want to do only what you want him to do; he 
ought not to take a step which you have not foreseen; he 
ought not to open his mouth without your knowing what 
he will say. 

Freedom 45 

Rousseau could take this line because he had unlimited 
■faith in the benevolence of teachers, who would use their 
absolute control for the good of their students. But, as we 
shall see later, benevolence is no guarantee against the 
misuse of power, and very few figures in the history of the 
struggle for freedom have shown Rousseau’s lack of con- 
cern. On the contrary, they have taken the extreme posi- 
tion that all control is wrong. In so doing they exem- 
plify a behavioural process called generalization. Many 
instances of control are aversive, in either their nature 
or their consequences, and hence all instances are 
to be avoided. The Puritans carried the generalization 
a step further by arguing that most positive reinforce- 
ment was wrong, whether or not it was intentionally 
arranged, just because it occasionally got people into 

The literature of freedom has encouraged escape from 
or attack upon all controllers. It has done so by making 
any indication of control aversive. Those who manipu- 
late human behaviour are said to be evil men, necessarily 
bent on exploitation. Control is clearly the opposite of 
freedom, and if freedom is good, control must be bad. 
What is overlooked is control which does not have aver- 
sive consequences at any time. Many social practices es- 
sential to the welfare of the species involve the control of 
one person by another, and no one can suppress them 
who has any concern for human achievements. We shall 
see later that in order to maintain the position that all 
control is wrong, it has been necessary to disguise or con- 
ceal the nature of useful practices, to prefer weak prac- 
tices just because they can be disguised or concealed, and 
- a most extraordinary result indeed 1 - to perpetuate 
punitive measures. 

The problem is to free men, not from control, but from 
certain kinds of control, and it can be solved only if our 

46 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

analysis takes all consequences into account. How people 
feel about control, before or after the literature of free- 
dom has worked on their feelings, does not lead to useful 

Were it not for the unwarranted generalization that all 
control is wrong, we should deal with the social environ- 
ment as simply as we deal with the non-social. Although 
technology has freed men from certain aversive features 
of the environment, it has not freed them from the en- 
vironment. We accept the fact that we depend upon the 
world around us, and we simply change the nature of the 
dependency. In the same way, to make the social environ- 
ment as free as possible of aversive stimuli we do not 
need to destroy that environment or escape from it; we 
need to redesign it. 


Man’s struggle for freedom is not due to a will to be free, 
but to certain behavioural processes characteristic of the 
human organism, the chief effect of which is the avoid- 
ance of or escape from so-called ‘aversive’ features of the 
environment. Physical and biological technologies have 
been mainly concerned with natural aversive stimuli; the 
struggle for freedom is concerned with stimuli intention- 
ally arranged by other people. The literature of freedom 
has identified the other people and has proposed ways of 
escaping from them or weakening or destroying their 
power. It has been successful in reducing the aversive 
stimuli used in intentional control, but it has made the 
mistake of defining freedom in terms of states of mind or 
feelings, and it has therefore not been able to deal effect- 
ively with techniques of control which do not breed 
escape or revolt but nevertheless have aversive conse- 
quences. It has been forced to brand all control as wrong 
and tp misrepresent many of the advantages to be gained 

Freedom 47 

from a social environment. It is unprepared for the next 
step, which is not to free men from control but to analyse 
and change the kinds of control to which they are ex- 



Any evidence that a person’s behaviour may be 
attributed to external circumstances seems to threaten 
his dignity or worth. We are not inclined to give a person 
credit for achievements which are in fact due to forces 
over which he has no control. We tolerate a certain 
amount of such evidence, as we accept without alarm 
some evidence that a man is not free. No one is greatly 
disturbed when important details of works of art and 
literature, political careers, and scientific discoveries are 
attributed to ‘influences’ in the lives of artists, writers, 
statesmen, and scientists respectively. But as an analysis 
of behaviour adds further evidence, the achievements for 
which a person himself is to be given credit seem to ap- 
proach zero, and both the evidence and the science which 
produces it are then challenged. 

Freedom is an issue raised by the aversive consequences 
of behaviour, but dignity concerns positive reinforce- 
ment. When someone behaves in a way we find reinforc- 
ing, we make him more likely to do so again by praising 
or commending him. We applaud a performer precisely 
to induce him to repeat his performance, as the expres- 
sions ‘Again!’ ‘Encore!’ and ‘Bis!' indicate. We attest to 
the value of a person’s behaviour by patting him on the 
back, or saying ‘Good! ’ or ‘Right! ’ or giving him a ‘token 
of our esteem’ such as a prize, honour, or award. Some of 
these things are reinforcing in their own right - a pat on 
the back may be a kind of caress, and prizes include 
established reinforcers - but others are conditioned - 

Dignity 49 

that is, they reinforce only because they have been ac- 
companied by or exchanged for established reinforcers. 
Praise and approval are generally reinforcing because 
anyone who praises a person or approves what he has 
done is inclined to reinforce him in other ways. (The 
reinforcement may be the reduction of a threat; to ap- 
prove a draft of a resolution is often simply to cease to 
object to it.) 

There may be a natural inclination to be reinforcing 
to those who reinforce us, as there seems to be to attack 
those who attack us, but similar behaviour is generated 
by many social contingencies. We commend those who 
work for our good because we are reinforced when they 
continue to do so. When we give a person credit for some- 
thing we identify an additional reinforcing consequence. 
To give a person credit for winning a game is to empha- 
size the fact that the victory was contingent on something 
he did, and the victory may then become more reinforc- 
ing to him. 

The amount of credit a person receives is related in 
a curious way to the visibility of the causes of his be- 
haviour. We withhold credit when the causes are con- 
spicuous. We do not, for example, ordinarily commend a 
person for responding reflexly : we do not give him credit 
for coughing, sneezing, or vomiting even though the re- 
sult may be valuable. For the same reason we do not give 
much credit for behaviour which is under conspicuous 
aversive control even though it may be useful. As Mon- 
taigne observed, ‘Whatever is enforced by command is 
more imputed to him who exacts than to him who per- 
forms.’ We do not commend the groveller even though 
he may be serving an important function. 

Nor do we praise behaviour which is traceable to 
conspicuous positive reinforcement. We share Iago’s 
contempt for the 

50 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

. . . duteous and knee-crooking knave 

That, doting on his own obsequious bondage. 

Wears out his time, much like his master's ass. 

For nought but provender . . . 

To be excessively controlled by sexual reinforcement is to 
be ‘infatuated’, and the etymology of the word was mem- 
orialized by Kipling in two famous lines: ‘A fool there 
was and he made his prayer . . ./To a rag, a bone, and a 
hank of hair . . Members of the leisure classes have gen- 
erally lost status when they submitted to pecuniary rein- 
forcement by ‘going into trade’. Among those reinforced 
with money, credit usually varies with the conspicuous- 
ness of the reinforcement: it is less commendable to work 
for a weekly wage than a monthly salary, even though the 
total income is the same. The loss in status may explain 
why most professions have come only slowly under eco- 
nomic control. For a long time teachers were not paid, 
presumably because pay would have been beneath their 
dignity; and lending money at interest was stigmatized 
for centuries and even punished as usury. We do not give 
a writer much credit for a potboiler, or an artist for a 
picture obviously painted to sell in the current fashion. 
Above all we do not give credit to those who are con- 
spicuously working for credit. 

We give credit generously when there are no obvious 
reasons for the behaviour. Love is somewhat more com- 
mendable when unrequited, and art, music, and litera- 
ture when unappreciated. We give maximal credit when 
there are quite visible reasons for behaving differently - 
for example, when the lover is mistreated or the art, 
music, or literature suppressed. If we commend a person 
who puts duty before love, it is because the control exer- 
cised by love is easily identified. It has been customary to 
commend those who live celibate lives, give away their 
fortunes, or remain loyal to a cause when persecuted, be- 

Dignity 51 

cause there are clear reasons for behaving differently. 
The extent of the credit varies with the magnitude of the 
opposing conditions. We commend loyalty in proportion 
to the intensity of the persecution, generosity in propor- 
tion to the sacrifices entailed, and celibacy in proportion 
to a person’s inclination to engage in sexual behaviour. 
As La Rochefoucauld observed, ‘No man deserves to be 
praised for his goodness unless he has strength of charac- 
ter to be wicked. All other goodness is generally nothing 
but indolence or impotence of will.’ 

An inverse relation between credit and the conspicu- 
ousness of causes is particularly obvious when behaviour 
is explicitly controlled by stimuli. The extent to which 
we commend someone for operating a complex piece of 
equipment depends on the circumstances. If it is obvious 
that he is simply imitating another operator, that some- 
one is ‘showing him what to do’, we give him very little 
credit - at most only for being able to imitate and exe- 
cute the behaviour. If he is following oral instructions, if 
someone is ‘telling him what to do’, we give him slightly 
more credit - at least for understanding the language 
well enough to follow directions. If he is following writ- 
ten instructions, we give him additional credit for know- 
ing how to read. But we give him credit for ‘knowing how 
to operate the equipment’ only if he does so without cur- 
rent direction, though he may have learned through imi- 
tation or by following oral or written instructions. We 
give him maximal credit if he has discovered how to 
operate it without help, since he then owes nothing to 
any instructor at any time; his behaviour has been 
shaped wholly by the relatively inconspicuous contin- 
gencies arranged by the equipment, and these are now 
past history. 

Similar examples are to be found in verbal behaviour. 
We reinforce people when they behave verbally - we pay 

52 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

them to read to us, to lecture, or to act in movies and 
plays - but we use credit to reinforce what is said rather 
than the act of speaking. Suppose someone makes an im- 
portant statement. We give him minimal credit if he is 
simply repeating what another speaker has just said. If he 
is reading from a text, we give him a little more credit, in 
part for ‘knowing how to read’. If he is ‘speaking from 
memory’ no current stimulus is in evidence, and we give 
him credit for ‘knowing the statement’. If it is clear that 
the observation is original, that no part of it is derived 
from the verbal behaviour of anyone else, we give maxi- 
mal credit. 

We commend a prompt child more than one who must 
be reminded of his appointments because the reminder is 
a particularly visible feature of temporal contingencies. 
We give more credit to a person for ‘mental’ arithmetic 
than for arithmetic done on paper because the stimuli 
controlling successive steps are conspicuous on the paper. 
The theoretical physicist gets more credit than the 
experimental because the behaviour of the latter clearly 
depends on laboratory practice and observation. We 
commend those who behave well without supervision 
more than those who need to be watched, and those 
who naturally speak a language more than those who 
must consult grammatical rules. 

We acknowledge this curious relation between credit 
and the inconspicuousness of controlling conditions 
when we conceal control to avoid losing credit or to claim 
credit not really due us. The general does his best to 
maintain his dignity while riding in a jeep over rough 
terrain, and the flute player continues to play although a 
fly crawls over his face. We try not to sneeze or laugh on 
solemn occasions, and after making an embarrassing mis- 
take we try to act as if we had not done so. We submit to 
pain without flinching, we eat daintily though ravenous, 

Dignity 53 

we reach casually for our winnings at cards, and we risk a 
burn by slowly putting down a hot plate. (Dr Johnson 
questioned the value of this: spewing out a mouthful of 
hot potato, he exclaimed to his astonished companions, 
‘A fool would have swallowed it 1 ’) In other words, we 
resist any condition in which we behave in undignified 

We attempt to gain credit by disguising or concealing 
control. The television speaker uses a prompter which is 
out of sight, and the lecturer glances only surreptitiously 
at his notes, and both then appear to be speaking either 
from memory or extemporaneously, when they are in fact 
- and less commendably - reading. We try to gain credit 
by inventing less compelling reasons for our conduct. We 
‘save face’ by attributing our behaviour to less visible or 
less powerful causes - by behaving, for example, as if we 
were not under threat. Following Saint Jerome, we make 
a virtue of necessity, acting as we are forced to act but as 
if we were not forced. We conceal coercion by doing more 
than is required : ‘If anyone forces you to go one mile, go 
with him two miles.’ We try to avoid discredit for objec- 
tionable behaviour by claiming irresistible reasons; as 
Choderlos de Laclos observed in Les Liaisons danger- 
euses, ‘A woman must have a pretext in giving herself to 
a man. What better than to appear to be yielding to 

We magnify the credit due us by exposing ourselves to 
conditions which ordinarily generate unworthy behav- 
iour while refraining from acting in unworthy ways. We 
seek out conditions under which behaviour has been 
positively reinforced and then refuse to engage in the be- 
haviour; we court temptation, as the saint in the desert 
maximized the virtues of an austere life by arranging to 
have beautiful women or delicious food near by. We con- 
tinue to punish ourselves, as flagellants do, when we 

54 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

could readily stop, or submit to the fate of the martyr 
when we could escape. 

When we are concerned with the credit to be given to 
others, we minimize the conspicuousness of the causes of 
their behaviour. We resort to gentle admonition rather 
than punishment because conditioned reinforcers are less 
conspicuous than unconditioned, and avoidance more 
commendable than escape. We give the student a hint 
rather than tell him the whole answer, which he will get 
credit for knowing if the hint suffices. We merely suggest 
or advise rather than give orders. We give permission to 
those who are going to behave in objectionable ways any- 
way, like the bishop who, when presiding at a dinner, 
exclaimed, ‘Those who must smoke, may.’ We make it 
easy for people to save face by accepting their explana- 
tions of their conduct, no matter how unlikely. We test 
commendability by giving people reasons for behaving 
uncommendably. Chaucer’s patient Griselda proved her 
fidelity to her husband by resisting the prodigious reasons 
he gave her for being unfaithful. 

Giving credit in inverse proportion to the conspicuous- 
ness of the causes of behaviour may be simply a matter of 
good husbandry. We make a judicious use of our re- 
sources. There is no point in commending a person for 
doing what he is going to do anyway, and we estimate the 
chances from the visible evidence. We are particularly 
likely to commend a person when we know of no other 
way of getting results, when there are no other reasons 
why he should behave in other ways. We do not give 
credit if it will work no change. We do not waste credit 
on reflexes, because they can be strengthened only with 
great difficulty, if at all, through operant reinforcement. 
We do not give credit for what has been done by acci- 
dent. We also withhold credit if it is going to be supplied 
by others; for example, we do not commend people for 

Dignity 55 

giving alms if they sound trumpets before doing so, since 
‘they have their reward’. (A judicious use of resources 
is often clearer with respect to punishment. We do not 
waste punishments when they will work no change - 
when, for example, the behaviour was accidental or emit- 
ted by a retarded or psychotic person.) 

Good husbandry may also explain why we do not com- 
mend people who are obviously working simply for com- 
mendation. Behaviour is to be commended only if it is 
more than merely commendable. If those who work for 
commendation are productive in no other way, the com- 
mendation is wasted. It may also interfere with the effects 
of other consequences; the player who works for applause, 
who ‘plays to the grandstand’, responds less sensitively to 
the contingencies of the game. 

We seem to be interested in judicious use when we call 
rewards and punishments just or unjust and fair or un- 
fair. We are concerned with what a person ‘deserves’, or, 
as the dictionary puts it, what he is ‘rightfully worthy of, 
or fairly entitled to, or able to claim rightfully by virtue 
of action done or qualities displayed.’ Too generous a 
reward is more than is needed to maintain the behaviour. 
It is particularly unfair when nothing at all has been 
done to deserve it or when, in fact, what has been done 
deserves punishment. Too great a punishment is also un- 
just, especially when nothing has been done to deserve it 
or when a person has behaved well. Incommensurate con- 
sequences may cause trouble; good fortune often rein- 
forces indolence, for example, and bad fortune often 
punishes industry. (The reinforcers at issue are not neces- 
sarily administered by other people. Good or bad luck 
causes trouble when it is not deserved.) 

We try to correct defective contingencies when we say 
that a man should ‘appreciate’ his good fortune. We 
mean that he should henceforth act in ways which would 

56 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

be fairly reinforced by what he has already received. We 
may hold, in fact, that a man can appreciate things only 
if he has worked for them. (The etymology of ‘appreciate’ 
is significant : to appreciate the behaviour of a man is to 
put a price on it. ‘Esteem’ and ‘respect’ are related terms. 
We esteem behaviour in the sense of estimating the ap- 
propriateness of reinforcement. We respect simply by 
noticing. Thus, we respect a worthy opponent in the 
sense that we are alert to his strength. A man wins respect 
by gaining notice, and we have no respect for those who 
are ‘beneath our notice’. We no doubt particularly notice' 
the things we esteem or appreciate, but in doing so we do 
not necessarily place a value on them.) 

There is something more than good husbandry or the 
appropriate evaluation of reinforcers in our concern for 
dignity or worth. We not only praise, commend, approve, 
or applaud a person, we ‘admire’ him, and the word is 
close to ‘marvel at’ or ‘wonder at’. We stand in awe of the 
inexplicable, and it is therefore not surprising that we 
are likely to admire behaviour more as we understand it 
less. And, of course, what we do not understand we attri- 
bute to autonomous man. The early troubadour reciting 
a long poem must have seemed possessed (and he himself 
called upon a muse to inspire him), as the actor reciting 
memorized lines today seems to be possessed by the char- 
acter he plays. The gods spoke through oracles and 
through the priests who recited holy script. Ideas appear 
miraculously in the unconscious thought processes of in- 
tuitive mathematicians, who are therefore admired be- 
yond mathematicians who proceed through reasoned steps. 
The creative genius of artist, composer, or writer is a kind 
of genie. 

We seem to appeal to the miraculous when we admire 
behaviour because we cannot strengthen it in any other 

Dignity 57 

way. We may coerce soldiers into risking their lives, or 
pay them generously for doing so, and we may not ad- 
mire them in either case, but to induce a man to risk his 
life when he does not ‘have to’ and when there are no 
obvious rewards, nothing seems available but admira- 
tion. A difference between expressing admiration and 
giving credit is clear when we admire behaviour which 
admiration will not affect. We may call a scientific 
achievement, a work of art, a piece of music, or a book 
admirable but at such a time or in such a way that we 
cannot affect the scientist, artist, composer, or writer, 
even though we should give credit and offer other kinds 
of support if we could. We admire genetic endowment - 
the physical beauty, skill, or prowess of a race, family, or 
individual - but not in order to change it. (The admira- 
tion may eventually change genetic endowment by chang- 
ing selective breeding, but on a very different time scale.) 

What we may call the struggle for dignity has many 
features in common with the struggle for freedom. The 
removal of a positive reinforcer is aversive, and when 
people are deprived of credit or admiration or the chance 
to be commended or admired, they respond in appropri- 
ate ways. They escape from those who deprive them or 
attack in order to weaken their effectiveness. The litera- 
ture of dignity identifies those who infringe a person’s 
worth, it describes the practices they use, and it suggests 
measures to be taken. Like the literature of freedom it is 
not much concerned with simple escape, presumably be- 
cause instruction is not needed. Instead it concentrates 
on weakening those who deprive others of credit. The 
measures are seldom as violent as those recommended by 
the literature of freedom, probably because loss of credit 
is in general less aversive than pain or death. They are 
often in fact merely verbal; we react to those who deprive 

58 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

us of due credit by protesting, opposing, or condemning 
them and their practices. (What is felt when a person 
protests is usually called resentment, significantly defined 
as 'the expression of indignant displeasure’, but we do 
not protest because we feel resentful. We both protest 
and feel resentful because we have been deprived of the 
chance to be admired or to receive credit.) 

A large part of the literature of dignity is concerned 
with justice, with the appropriateness of rewards and 
punishment. Both freedom and dignity are at stake when 
the appropriateness of a punishment is being considered. 
Economic practices come into the literature in determin- 
ing a fair price or a fair wage. The child’s first protest, 
‘That’s not fair’, is usually a matter of the magnitude of a 
reward or punishment. We are concerned here with that 
part of the literature of dignity which protests encroach- 
ment on personal worth. A person protests (and incident- 
ally feels indignant) when he is unnecessarily jostled, 
tripped, or pushed around, forced to work with the 
wrong tools, tricked into behaving foolishly with joke- 
shop novelties, or forced to behave in demeaning ways 
as in a jail or concentration camp. He protests and re- 
sents the addition of any unnecessary control. We offend 
him by offering to pay for services he has performed as 
a favour, because we imply a lesser generosity or good 
will on his part. A student protests when we tell him an 
answer he already knows, because we destroy the credit he 
would have been given for knowing it. To give a devout 
person proof of the existence of God is to destroy his 
claim to pure faith. The mystic resents orthodoxy; anti- 
nomianism took the position that to behave well by fol- 
lowing rules was not a sign of true goodness. Civic virtue 
is not easily demonstrated in the presence of the police. 
To require a citizen to sign a loyalty oath is to destroy 
some of the loyalty he could otherwise claim, since any 

Dignity 59 

subsequent loyal behaviour may then be attributed to 
the oath. 

The artist objects to (and resents) being told that he is 
painting the kind of picture that sells well, or the author 
that he is writing potboilers, or the legislator that he is 
supporting a measure to get votes. We are likely to object 
to (and resent) being told that we are imitating an ad- 
mired person, or repeating merely what we have heard 
someone say or have read in books. We oppose (and re- 
sent) any suggestion that the aversive consequences in 
spite of which we are behaving well are not important. 
Thus, we object to being told that the mountain we are 
about to climb is not really difficult, that the enemy we 
are about to attack is not really formidable, that the work 
we are doing is not really very hard, or, following La 
Rochefoucauld, that we are behaving well because we do 
not have the strength of character to behave badly. When 
P. W. Bridgman argued that scientists are particularly 
inclined to admit and correct their mistakes because in 
science a mistake will soon be discovered by someone, he 
was felt to be challenging the virtue of scientists. 

From time to time, advances in physical and biological 
technology have seemed to threaten worth or dignity 
when they have reduced chances to earn credit or be ad- 
mired. Medical science has reduced the need to suffer in 
silence and the chance to be admired for doing so. Fire- 
proof buildings leave no room for brave firemen, or safe 
ships for brave sailors, or safe aeroplanes for brave pilots. 
The modern dairy barn has no place for a Hercules. 
When exhausting and dangerous work is no longer re- 
quired, those who are hard-working and brave seem 
merely foolish. 

The literature of dignity conflicts here with the litera- 
ture of freedom, which favours a reduction in aversive 
features of daily life, as by making behaviour less 

60 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

arduous, dangerous, or painful, but a concern for personal 
worth sometimes triumphs over freedom from aversive 
stimulation - for example, when, quite apart from medi- 
cal issues, painless childbirth is not as readily accepted 
as painless dentistry. A military expert, J. F. C. Fuller, 
has written : ‘The highest military rewards are given for 
bravery and not for intelligence, and the introduction of 
any novel weapon which detracts from individual prow- 
ess is met with opposition.’ Some labour-saving devices 
are still opposed on the grounds that they reduce the 
value of the product. Hand sawyers presumably opposed 
the introduction of sawmills and destroyed them because 
their jobs were threatened, but it is also significant that 
the mills reduced the value of their labour by reducing 
the value of sawed planks. In this conflict, however, free- 
dom usually wins out over dignity. People have been ad- 
mired for submitting to danger, hard labour, and pain, 
but almost everyone is willing to forgo the acclaim for 
doing so. 

Behavioural technology does not escape as easily as 
physical and biological technology because it threatens 
too many occult qualities. The alphabet was a great in- 
vention, which enabled men to store and transmit records 
of their verbal behaviour and to learn with little effort 
what others had learned the hard way - that is, to learn 
from books rather than from direct, possibly painful, con- 
tact with the real world. But until men understood the 
extraordinary advantages of being able to learn from the 
experience of others, the apparent destruction of personal 
merit was objectionable. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Thamus, 
the Egyptian king, protests that those who learn from 
books have only the show of wisdom, not wisdom itself. 
Merely reading what someone has written is less com- 
mendable than saying the same thing for arcane reasons. 
A person who reads a book appears to be omniscient, yet. 

Dignity 61 

according to Thamus, he ‘knows nothing’. And when a 
text is used to aid memory, Thamus contended that 
memory would fall into disuse. To read is less commend- 
able than to recite what one has learned. And there are 
many other ways in which, by reducing the need for ex- 
hausting, painful, and dangerous work, a behavioural 
technology reduces the chance to be admired. The slide 
rule, the calculating machine, and the computer are the 
enemies of the arithmetic mind. But here again the gain 
in freedom from aversive stimulation may compensate for 
any loss of admiration. 

There may seem to be no compensating gain when dig- 
nity or worth seems lessened by a basic scientific analysis, 
apart from technological applications. It is in the nature 
of scientific progress that the functions of autonomous 
man be taken over one by one as the role of the environ- 
ment is better understood. A scientific conception seems 
demeaning because nothing is eventually left for which 
autonomous man can take credit. And as for admiration 
in the sense of wonderment, the behaviour we admire is 
the behaviour we cannot yet explain. Science naturally 
seeks a fuller explanation of that behaviour; its goal is 
the destruction of mystery. The defenders of dignity will 
protest, but in doing so they postpone an achievement for 
which, in traditional terms, man would receive the great- 
est credit and for which he would be most admired. 


We recognize a person’s dignity or worth when we give 
him credit for what he has done. The amount we give is 
inversely proportional to the conspicuousness of the 
causes of his behaviour. If we do not know why a person 
acts as he does, we attribute his behaviour to him. We try 
to gain additional credit for ourselves by concealing the 
reasons why we behave in given ways or by claiming to 

6a Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

have acted for less powerful reasons. We avoid infringing 
on the credit due to others by controlling them incon- 
spicuously. We admire people to the extent that we can- 
not explain what they do, and the word ‘admire’ then 
means ‘marvel at’. What we may call the literature of 
dignity is concerned with preserving due credit. It may 
oppose advances in technology, including a technology of 
behaviour, because they destroy chances to be admired 
and a basic analysis because it offers an alternative ex- 
planation of behaviour for which the individual himself 
has previously been given credit. The literature thus 
stands in the way of further human achievements. 



Freedom is sometimes defined as a lack of resistance or 
restraint. A wheel turns freely if there is very little fric- 
tion in the bearing, a horse breaks free from the post to 
which it has been tethered, a man frees himself from the 
branch on which he has been caught while climbing a 
tree. Physical restraint is an obvious condition, which 
seems particularly useful in defining freedom, but with 
respect to important issues, it is a metaphor and not a 
very good one. People are indeed controlled by fetters, 
handcuffs, strait jackets, and the walls of jails and con- 
centration camps, but what may be called behavioural 
control - the restraint imposed by contingencies of re- 
inforcement - is a very different thing. 

Except when physically restrained, a person is least free 
or dignified when he is under threat of punishment, and 
unfortunately most people often are. Punishment is very 
common in nature, and we learn a great deal from it. A 
child runs awkwardly, falls, and is hurt; he touches a bee 
and is stung; he takes a bone from a dog and is bitten; 
and as a result he learns not to do these things again. It is 
mainly to avoid various forms of. natural punishment 
that people have built a more comfortable and less 
dangerous world. 

The word punishment is usually confined to contin- 
gencies intentionally arranged by other people, who ar- 
range them because the results are reinforcing to them. 
(Punitive contingencies are not to be confused with aver- 

64 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

sive control, through which people are induced to behave 
in given ways. Punishment is used to induce people not 
to behave in given ways.) A person resorts to punishment 
when he criticizes, ridicules, blames, or physically attacks 
another in order to suppress unwanted behaviour. Gov- 
ernment is often defined in terms of the power to punish, 
and some religions teach that sinful behaviour will be 
followed by eternal punishments of the most horrible 

We should expect the literatures of freedom and dig- 
nity to oppose measures of this sort and to work towards a 
world in which punishment is less common or even ab- 
sent, and up to a point they have done so. But punitive 
sanctions are still common. People still control each other 
more often through censure or blame than commenda- 
tion or praise, the military and the police remain the 
most powerful arms of government, communicants are 
still occasionally reminded of hellfire, and teachers have 
abandoned the birch rod only to replace it with more 
subtle forms of punishment. And the curious fact is that 
those who defend freedom and dignity are not only not 
opposed to these measures but largely responsible for the 
fact that they are still with us. This strange state of affairs 
can be understood only by looking at the way in which 
organisms respond to punitive contingencies. 

Punishment is designed to remove awkward, danger- 
ous, or otherwise unwanted behaviour from a repertoire 
on the assumption that a person who has been punished 
is less likely to behave in the same way again. Unfortu- 
nately the matter is not that simple. Reward and punish- 
ment do not differ merely in the direction of the changes 
they induce. A child who has been severely punished for 
sex play is not necessarily less inclined to continue; and a 
man who has been imprisoned for violent assault is not 

Punishment 65 

necessarily less inclined towards violence. Punished be- 
haviour is likely to reappear after the punitive contin- 
gencies are withdrawn. 

What seem to be the intended effects of punishment 
can often be explained in other ways. For example, pun- 
ishment may generate incompatible emotions. A boy who 
has been severely punished for sex play may no longer be, 
as we might say, in the mood to continue, and fleeing to 
escape from a punisher is incompatible with attacking 
him. Future occasions for sex play or for violent assault 
may evoke similar incompatible behaviour through con- 
ditioning. Whether the effect is felt as shame, guilt, or a 
sense of sin depends upon whether the punishment is ad- 
ministered by parent or peer, by a government, or by a 
church, respectively. 

The aversive condition brought about by punishment 
(and felt in these different ways) has a much more import- 
ant effect. Quite literally, a person may subsequently be- 
have ‘in order to avoid punishment’. He can avoid it by 
not behaving in punishable ways, but there are other possi- 
bilities. Some of these are disruptive and maladaptive 
or neurotic, and as a result they have been closely stud- 
ied. The so-called ‘dynamisms’ of Freud are said to be 
ways in which repressed wishes evade the censor and find 
expression, but they can be interpreted simply as ways in 
which people avoid punishment. Thus, a person may 
behave in ways that will not be punished because they can- 
not be seen, as by fantasying or dreaming. He may subli- 
mate by engaging in behaviour which has rather similar 
reinforcing effects but is not punished. He may displace 
punishable behaviour by directing it towards objects 
which cannot punish - for example, he may be aggressive 
towards physical objects, children, or small animals. He 
may watch or read about others who engage in punish- 
able behaviour, identifying himself with them, or in- 

66 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

terpret the behaviour of others as punishable, projecting 
his own tendencies. He may rationalize his behaviour by 
giving reasons, either to himself or others, which make it 
non-punishable - as in asserting that he is punishing a 
child for the child's own good. 

There are more effective ways of avoiding punishment. 
One may avoid occasions on which punishable behaviour 
is likely to occur. A person who has been punished for 
drunkenness may ‘put temptation behind him’ by staying 
away from places where he is likely to drink too much; a 
student who has been punished for not studying may 
avoid situations in which he is distracted from his work. 
Still another strategy is to change the environment so 
that behaviour is less likely to be punished. We reduce 
natural punishing contingencies when we repair a 
broken stairway so that we are less likely to fall, and we 
weaken punitive social contingencies by associating with 
more tolerant friends. 

Still another strategy is to change the probability that 
punishable behaviour will occur. A person who is fre- 
quently punished because he is quick to anger may count 
to ten before acting; he avoids punishment if, while he is 
counting, his inclination to act aggressively drops to a 
manageable level. Or he may make punishable behaviour 
less likely by changing his physiological condition, con- 
trolling aggression, for example, by taking a tranquillizer. 
Men have even resorted to surgical means - castrating 
themselves, for example, or following the Biblical in- 
junction to cut off-the hand that offends. Punitive con- 
tingencies may also induce a man to seek out or construct 
environments in which he is likely to engage in behav- 
iour which displaces punishable forms; he stays out of 
trouble by keeping busy in non-punished ways, as by 
doggedly ‘doing something else’. (Much behaviour which 

Punishment 67 

appears irrational in the sense that it seems to have no 
positively reinforcing consequences may have the effect of 
displacing behaviour which is subject to punishment.) A 
person may even take steps to strengthen contingencies 
which teach him to stop behaving in punishable ways: 
he may, for example, take drugs under the influence of 
which smoking or drinking have strong aversive conse- 
quences, such as nausea, or he may expose himself to 
stronger ethical, religious, or governmental sanctions. 

All these things a person may do to reduce the chances 
that he will be punished, but they may also be done for 
him by other people. Physical technology has reduced the 
number of occasions upon which people are naturally 
punished, and social environments have been changed to 
reduce the likelihood of punishment at the hands of 
others. Some familiar strategies may be noted. 

Punishable behaviour can be minimized by creating 
circumstances in which it is not likely to occur. The 
archetypal pattern is the cloister. In a world in which 
only simple foods are available, and in moderate supply, 
no one is subject to the natural punishment of overeat- 
ing, or the social punishment of disapproval, or the 
religious punishment of gluttony as a venial sin. Hetero- 
sexual behaviour is impossible when the sexes are segre- 
gated, and the vicarious sexual behaviour evoked by 
pornography is impossible in the absence of porno- 
graphic material. ‘Prohibition’ was an effort to control 
the consumption of alcohol by removing alcohol from the 
environment. It is still practised in some states and al- 
most universally to the extent that alcohol cannot be sold 
to minors or to anyone at certain times of day or on cer- 
tain days. The care of the institutionalized alcoholic usu- 
ally involves the control of supplies. The use of other 
additive drugs is still controlled in the same way. 

68 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

Aggressive behaviour which is otherwise uncontrollable is 
suppressed by putting a person in solitary confinement, 
where there is no one to aggress against. Theft is con- 
trolled by locking up everything likely to be stolen. 

Another possibility is to break up the contingencies 
under which punished behaviour is reinforced. Temper 
tantrums often disappear when they no longer receive 
attention, aggressive behaviour is attenuated by making 
sure that nothing is gained by it, and overeating is con- 
trolled by making foods less palatable. Another tech- 
nique is to arrange circumstances under which behaviour ' 
may occur without being punished. Saint Paul recom- 
mended marriage as a means of reducing objectionable 
forms of sexual behaviour, and pornography has been re- 
commended for the same reasons. Literature and art 
permit one to ‘sublimate’ other kinds of troublesome be- 
haviour. Punishable behaviour can also be suppressed by 
strongly reinforcing any behaviour which displaces it. 
Organized sports are sometimes promoted on the grounds 
that they provide an environment in which young people 
will be too busy to get into trouble. If all this fails, pun- 
ishable behaviour may be made less likely by changing 
physiological conditions. Hormones may be used to 
change sexual behaviour, surgery (as in lobotomy) to con- 
trol violence, tranquillizers to control aggression, and 
appetite depressants to control overeating. 

Measures of this sort are no doubt often inconsistent 
with each other and may have unforeseen consequences. 
It proved to be impossible to control the supply of alco- 
hol during prohibition, and segregation of the sexes may 
lead to unwanted homosexuality. Excessive suppression 
of behaviour which would otherwise be strongly rein- 
forced may lead to defection from the punishing group. 
These problems are in essence soluble, however, and it 
should be possible to design a world in which behaviour 

Punishment 69 

likely to be punished seldom or never occurs. We try to 
design such a world for those who cannot solve the prob- 
lem of punishment for themselves, such as babies, retard- 
ates, or psychotics, and if it could be done for everyone, 
much time and energy would be saved. 

The defenders of freedom and dignity object to solving 
the problem of punishment that way. Such a world builds 
only automatic goodness. T. H. Huxley saw nothing 
wrong with it : ‘If some great power would agree to make 
me always think what is true and do what is right, on 
condition of being some sort of a clock and wound up 
every morning before I got out of bed, I should close 
instantly with the offer.’ But Joseph Wood Krutch refers 
to this as the scarcely believable position of a ‘proto- 
modern’, and he shares T. S. Eliot’s contempt for ‘systems 
so perfect that no one will need to be good’. 

The trouble is that when we punish a person for be- 
having badly, we leave it up to him to discover how to 
behave well, and he can then get credit for behaving well. 
But if he behaves well for the reasons we have just exam- 
ined, it is the environment that must get the credit. At 
issue is an attribute of autonomous man. Men are to be- 
have well only because they are good. Under a ‘perfect’ 
■system no one needs goodness. 

There are, of course, valid reasons for thinking less of a 
person who is only automatically good, for he is a lesser 
person. In a world in which he does not need to work 
hard, he will not learn to sustain hard work. In a world 
in which medical science has alleviated pain, he will not 
learn to take painful stimuli. In a world which promotes 
automatic goodness, he will not learn to take the punish- 
ments associated with behaving badly. To prepare people 
for a world in which they cannot be good automatically, 
we need appropriate instruction, but that does not mean 

70 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

a permanently punitive environment, and there is no 
reason why progress towards a world in which people 
may be automatically good should be impeded. The 
problem is to induce people not to be good but to behave 

The issue is again the visibility of control. As environ- 
mental contingencies become harder to see, the goodness 
of autonomous man becomes more apparent, and there 
are several reasons why punitive control becomes incon- 
spicuous. A simple way to avoid punishment is to avoid 
punishers. Sex play becomes surreptitious, and a violent 
man attacks only when the police are not around. But the 
punisher may offset this by concealment. Parents fre- 
quently spy on their children, and policemen wear plain 
clothes. Escape must then become more subtle. If motor- 
ists obey speed laws only when the police are visible, 
speed may be monitored by radar, but the motorist may 
then instal an electronic device which tells him when 
radar is in use. A state which converts all its citizens into 
spies or a religion which promotes the concept of an all- 
seeing God makes escape from the punisher practically 
impossible, and punitive contingencies are then maxi- 
mally effective. People behave well although there is no 
visible supervision. 

But the absence of a supervisor is easily misunderstood. 
It is commonly said that the control becomes internal- 
ized, which is simply another way of saying that it passes 
from the environment to autonomous man, but what 
happens is that it becomes less visible. One kind of con- 
trol said to be internalized is represented by the Judaeo- 
Christian conscience and the Freudian superego. These 
indwelling agents speak in a still, small voice, telling a 
person what to do and, in particular, what not to do. The 
words are acquired from the community. The conscience 
and the superego are the vicars of society, and theo- 

Punishment 71 

logians and psychoanalysts alike recognize their external 
origins. Where the Old Adam or the id speaks for the 
personal good specified by man’s genetic endowment, the 
conscience or superego speaks for what is good for others. 

The conscience or superego does not arise simply from 
the concealment of punishers. It represents a number of 
auxiliary practices which make punitive sanctions more 
effective. We help a person avoid punishment by telling 
him about punitive contingencies, we warn him not to 
behave in ways which are likely to be punished, and we 
advise him to behave in ways which will not be punished. 
Many religious and governmental laws have these effects. 
They describe the contingencies under which some forms 
of behaviour are punished and others not. Maxims, prov- 
erbs, and other forms of folk wisdom often supply useful 
rules. ‘Look before you leap’ is an injunction derived 
from an analysis of certain kinds of contingencies: leap- 
ing without looking is more likely to be punished than 
looking and then possibly not leaping or leaping more 
skilfully. ‘Do not steal’ is an injunction derived from 
social contingencies: people punish thieves. 

By following the rules which others have derived from 
punitive contingencies in the natural and social environ- 
ment a person can often avoid or escape punishment. 
Both the rules and the contingencies which generate rule- 
following behaviour may be conspicuous, but they may 
also be learned and later remembered, and the process 
then becomes invisible. The individual tells himself what 
to do and what not to do, and it is easy to lose sight of the 
fact that he has been taught to do so by the verbal com- 
munity. When a person derives his own rules from an 
analysis of punitive contingencies, we are particularly 
likely to give him credit for the good behaviour which 
follows, but the visible stages have simply faded farther 
into history. 

72 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

When the punitive contingencies are simply part of the 
non-social environment, it is reasonably clear what is 
happening. We do not allow a person to learn to drive a 
car by exposing him to serious punitive contingencies. 
We do not send him onto a busy highway without pre- 
paration and hold him responsible for everything that 
happens. We give him instruction in safe and skilful 
driving. We teach him rules. We let him begin to drive in 
a training device in which punitive contingencies are 
minimized or altogether lacking. We then take him onto 
a relatively safe highway. If we are successful, we may 
produce a safe and skilful driver without resorting to 
punishment at all, even though the contingencies under 
which he will drive for the rest of his life continue to be 
highly punitive. We are likely to say, without warrant, 
that he has acquired the ‘knowledge’ he needs in order to 
drive safely or that he is now a ‘good driver’ rather than a 
person who drives well. When the contingencies are 
social, and in particular when they are arranged by re- 
ligious agencies, we are much more likely to infer an 
‘inner knowledge of right’ or an inner goodness. 

The goodness to which good behaviour is attributed is 
part of a person’s worth or dignity and shows the same 
inverse relationship to the visibility of control. We attri- 
bute the greatest goodness to people who have never be- 
haved badly and hence have never been punished, and 
who behave well without following rules. Jesus is usually 
portrayed as such a person. We infer a lesser goodness in 
those who behave well but only because they have been 
punished. The reformed sinner may resemble a natural 
saint, but the fact that he has been exposed to punitive 
contingencies places some limit on his natural goodness. 
Close to the reformed sinner are those who have analysed 
the punitive contingencies in their environments and 
derived rules which they have followed to avoid punish- 

Punishment 73 

ment. A lesser amount of goodness is attributed to those 
who follow rules formulated by others, and very little if 
the rules and the contingencies which maintain rule-gov- 
erned behaviour are conspicuous. We attribute no good- 
ness at all to those who behave well only under constant 
supervision by a punitive agent such as the police. 

Goodness, like other aspects of dignity or worth, waxes 
as visible control wanes, and so, of course, does freedom. 
Hence goodness and freedom tend to be associated. John 
Stuart Mill held that the only goodness worthy of the 
name was displayed by a person who behaved well al- 
though it was possible for him to behave badly and that 
only such a person was free. Mill was not in favour 
of closing houses of prostitution; they were to remain 
open so that people could achieve freedom and dignity 
through self-control. But the argument is convincing only 
if we neglect the reasons why people behave well when it 
is apparently possible for them to behave badly. It is one 
thing to prohibit the use of dice and playing cards, to 
prohibit the sale of alcohol, and to close houses of prosti- 
tution. It is another thing to make all these things aver- 
sive, as by punishing the behaviour they evoke, by calling 
them temptations contrived by the devil, and by portray- 
ing the tragic fate of the drunkard or describing the 
venereal diseases acquired from prostitutes. The effect 
may be the same : people may not gamble, drink, or go to 
prostitutes, but the fact that they cannot do so in one 
environment and do not do so in the other is a fact about 
techniques of control, not about goodness or freedom. In 
one environment the reasons for behaving well are clear; 
in another they are easily overlooked and forgotten. 

It is sometimes said that children are not ready for the 
freedom of self-control until they reach the age of reason, 
and that meanwhile they must either be kept in a safe 
environment or be punished. If punishment may be post- 

74 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

poned until they reach the age of reason, it may be dis- 
pensed with altogether. But this means simply that safe 
environments and punishment are the only measures 
available until a child has been exposed to the contin- 
gencies which give him other reasons for behaving well. 
Appropriate contingencies can often not be arranged for 
primitive people, and the same confusion between visibil- 
ity and internalized control is shown when it is said that 
primitive peoples are not ready for freedom. What, if any- 
thing, they are not ready for is a type of control which re- 
quires a special history of contingencies. 

Many of the issues of punitive control are raised by the 
concept of responsibility, an attribute which is said to dis- 
tinguish man from the other animals. The responsible 
person is a ‘deserving’ person. We give him credit when 
he behaves well, in order that he will continue to do so, 
but we are most likely to use the term when what he 
deserves is punishment. We hold a person responsible for 
his conduct in the sense that he can be justly or fairly 
punished. This is again a matter of good husbandry, of a 
judicious use of reinforcers, of ‘making the punishment fit 
the crime’. More punishment than necessary is costly and 
may suppress desirable behaviour, while too little is 
wasteful if it has no effect at all. 

The legal determination of responsibility (and justice) 
is in part concerned with facts. Did a person, indeed, be- 
have in a given way? Were the circumstances such that 
the behaviour was punishable under the law? If so, what 
laws apply, and what punishments are specified? But 
other questions seem to concern the inner man. Was the 
act intentional or premeditated? Was it done in the heat 
of anger? Did the person know the difference between 
right and wrong? Was he aware of the possible conse- 
quences of his act? All these questions about purposes, feel- 

Punishment 75 

ings, knowledge, and so on, can be restated in terms of 
the environment to which a person has been exposed. 
What a person ‘intends to do’ depends upon what he has 
done in the past and what has then happened. A person 
does not act because he ‘feels angry’; he acts and feels 
angry for a common reason, not specified. Whether he 
deserves punishment when all these conditions are taken 
into account is a question about probable results: will 
he, if punished, behave in a different way when similar 
circumstances again arise? There is a current tendency to 
substitute controllability for responsibility, and control- 
lability is not so likely to be regarded as a possession of 
autonomous man, since it explicitly alludes to external 

The assertion that ‘only a free man can be responsible 
for his conduct’ has two meanings, depending upon 
whether we are interested in freedom or responsibility. If 
we want to say that people are responsible, we must do 
nothing to infringe their freedom, since if they are not 
free to act they cannot be held responsible. If we want to 
say they are free, we must hold them responsible for their 
behaviour by maintaining punitive contingencies, since 
if they behaved in the same way under conspicuous non- 
punitive contingencies, it would be clear that they were 
not free. 

Any move towards an environment in which men are 
automatically good threatens responsibility. In the con- 
trol of alcoholism, for example, the traditional practice is 
punitive. Drunkenness is called wrong, and ethical sanc- 
tions are imposed by a person’s peers (the condition 
generated being felt as shame), or it is classified as illegal 
and subject to governmental sanctions (the condition 
generated being felt as guilt), or it is called sinful and 
punished by religious agencies (the condition generated 
being felt as a sense of sin). The practice has not been 

76 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

conspicuously successful, and other controlling measures 
have been sought. Certain medical evidence appears .to 
be relevant. People differ in their tolerances to alcohol 
and their addictive dependencies. Once a person has 
become an alcoholic, he may drink to relieve severe with- 
drawal symptoms which are not always taken into ac- 
count by those who have never experienced them. The 
medical aspects raise the question of responsibility: how 
fair is it to punish the alcoholic? From the point of view 
of husbandry, can we expect punishment to be effective 
against the opposing positive contingencies? Should we 
not rather treat the medical condition? (Our culture dif- 
fers from the Erewhon of Samuel Butler in imposing no 
punitive sanctions on illness.) As responsibility dimin- 
ishes, punishment is relaxed. 

Juvenile delinquency is another example. In the tradi- 
tional view a young person is responsible for obeying the 
law and may be justly punished if he disobeys, but effec- 
tive punitive contingencies are hard to maintain, and 
other measures have therefore been sought. Evidence that 
delinquency is commoner in certain kinds of neighbour- 
hoods and among poorer people seems relevant. A person 
is more likely to steal if he has little or nothing of his 
own, if his education has not prepared him to get and 
hold a job so that he may buy what he needs, if no jobs 
are available, if he has not been taught to obey the law, 
or if he often sees others breaking the law with impunity. 
Under such conditions delinquent behaviour is power- 
fully reinforced and unlikely to be suppressed by legal 
sanctions. Contingencies are therefore relaxed: the de- 
linquent may simply be warned or his sentence suspended. 
Responsibility and punishment decline together. 

The real issue is the effectiveness of techniques of con- 
trol. We shall not solve the problems of alcoholism and 
juvenile delinquency by increasing a sense of responsi- 

Punishment 77 

bility. It is the environment which is ‘responsible’ for the 
objectional behaviour, and it is the environment, not 
some attribute of the individual, which must be changed. 
We recognize this when we talk about the punitive con- 
tingencies in the natural environment. Running head-on 
into a wall is punished by a blow to the skull, but we do 
not hold a man responsible for not running into walls 
nor do we say that nature holds him responsible. Nature 
simply punishes him when he runs into a wall. When we 
make the world less punishing or teach people how to 
avoid natural punishments, as by giving them rules to 
follow, we are not destroying responsibility or threaten- 
ing any other occult quality. We are simply making the 
world safer. 

The concept of responsibility is particularly weak 
when behaviour is traced to genetic determiners. We may 
admire beauty, grace, and sensitivity, but we do not 
blame a person because he is ugly, spastic, or colour- 
blind. Less conspicuous forms of genetic endowment 
nevertheless cause trouble. Individuals presumably differ, 
as species differ, in the extent to which they respond ag- 
gressively or are reinforced when they effect aggressive 
damage, or in the extent to which they engage in sexual 
behaviour or are affected by sexual reinforcement. Are 
they, therefore, equally responsible for controlling their 
aggressive or sexual behaviour, and is it fair to punish 
them to the same extent? If we do not punish a person 
for a club foot, should we punish him for being quick to 
anger or highly susceptible to sexual reinforcement? The 
issue has recently been raised by the possibility that many 
criminals show an anomaly in their chromosomes. The 
concept of responsibility offers little help. The issue is 
controllability. We cannot change genetic defects by pun- 
ishment; we can work only through genetic measures 
which operate on a much longer time scale. What must 

78 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

be changed is not the responsibility of autonomous man 
but the conditions, environmental or genetic, of which a 
person’s behaviour is a function. 

Although people object when a scientific analysis traces 
their behaviour to external conditions and thus deprives 
them of credit and the chance to be admired, they seldom 
object when the same analysis absolves them of blame. 
The crude environmentalism of the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries was quickly put to use for purposes of 
exoneration and exculpation. George Eliot ridiculed it. 
The rector in Adam Bede exclaims, ‘Why, yes, a man 
can’t very well steal a bank-note unless the bank-note lies 
within convenient reach; but he won’t make us think 
him an honest man because he begins to howl at the bank- 
note for falling in his way.’ The alcoholic is the first to 
claim that he is ill, and the juvenile delinquent that he is 
the victim of an unfavourable background; if they are 
not responsible, they cannot be justly punished. 

Exoneration is in a sense the obverse of responsibility. 
Those who undertake to do something about human be- 
haviour - for any reason whatsoever - become part of the 
environment to which responsibility shifts. In the old 
view it was the student who failed, the child who went 
wrong, the citizen who broke the law, and the poor who 
were poor because they were idle, but it is now commonly 
said that there are no dull students but only poor teach- 
ers, no bad children but only bad parents, no delin- 
quency except on the part of law-enforcement agencies, 
and no indolent men but only poor incentive systems. 
But of course we must ask in turn why teachers, parents, 
governors, and entrepreneurs are bad. The mistake, as we 
shall see later, is to put the responsibility anywhere, to 
suppose that somewhere a causal sequence is initiated. 

Communist Russia provided an interesting case his- 

Punishment 79 

tory in the relation between environmentalism and per- 
sonal responsibility, as Raymond Bauer has pointed out. 
Immediately after the revolution the government could 
argue that if many Russians were uneducated, unproduc- 
tive, badly behaved, and unhappy, it was because their 
environment had made them so. The new government 
would change the environment, making use of Pavlov’s 
work on conditioned reflexes, and all would be well. But 
by the early thirties the government had had its chance, 
and many Russians were still not conspicuously better 
informed, more productive, better behaved, or happier. 
The official line was then changed, and Pavlov went out 
of favour.. A strongly purposive psychology was substi- 
tuted: it was up to the Russian citizen to get an educa- 
tion, work productively, behave well, and be happy. The 
Russian educator was to make sure that he would accept 
this responsibility, but not by conditioning him. The suc- 
cesses of the Second World War restored confidence in 
the earlier principle, however; the government had been 
successful after all. It might not yet be completely effec- 
tive, but it was moving in the right direction. Pavlov 
came back into favour. 

Exoneration of the controller is seldom so easily docu- 
mented, but something of the sort probably always under- 
lies the continued use of punitive methods. Attacks on 
automatic goodness may show a concern for autonomous 
man, but the practical contingencies are more cogent. 
The literatures of freedom and dignity have made the 
control of human behaviour a punishable offence, 
largely by holding the controller responsible for aversive 
results. The controller can escape responsibility if he can 
maintain the position that the individual himself is in 
control. The teacher who gives the student credit for 
learning can also blame him for not learning. The parent 
who gives his child credit for his achievements can also 

80 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

blame him for his mistakes. Neither the teacher nor the 
parent can be held responsible. 

The genetic sources of human behaviour are particu- 
larly useful in exoneration. If some races are less intelli- 
gent than others, the teacher cannot be blamed if he does 
not teach them as well. If some men are born criminals, 
the law will always be broken no matter how perfect the 
enforcing agency. If men make war because they are by 
nature aggressive, we need not be ashamed of our failure 
to keep the peace. A concern for exoneration is indicated 
by the fact that we are more likely to appeal to genetic 
endowment to explain undesirable results than positive 
accomplishments. Those who are currently interested in 
doing something about human behaviour cannot be 
given credit for, or blamed for, consequences which can 
be traced to genetic sources; if they have any responsi- 
bility, it is to the future of the species. The practice of 
attributing behaviour to genetic endowment - of the 
species as a whole or of some subdivision like a race or 
family — may affect breeding practices and eventually 
other ways of changing that endowment, and the contem- 
porary individual may in a sense be held responsible for 
the consequences if he acts or fails to act, but the conse- 
quences are remote and raise a different kind of problem, 
to which we shall eventually turn. 

Those who use punishment seem always to be on the 
safe side. Everyone approves the suppression of wrong- 
doing, except the wrongdoer. If those who are punished 
do not then do right, it is not the punisher’s fault. But 
the exoneration is not complete. Even those who do right 
may take a long time to discover what to do and may 
never do it well. They spend time fumbling with irrele- 
vant facts and wrestling with the devil, and in unneces- 
sary trial-and-error exploration. Moreover, punishment 

Punishment 81 

causes pain, and no one wholly escapes or remains un- 
touched even when the pain is suffered by others. The 
punisher cannot therefore entirely escape criticism, and 
he may ‘justify’ his action by pointing to consequences of 
punishment which offset its aversive features. 

It would be absurd to include the writings of Joseph de 
Maistre in the literatures of freedom and dignity, for he 
was bitterly opposed to their cardinal principles, particu- 
larly as expressed by the writers of the Enlightenment. 
Nevertheless, by opposing effective alternatives to pun- 
ishment on the ground that punishment alone leaves the 
individual free to choose to behave well, those literatures 
have created a need for a kind of justification of which de 
Maistre was a master. Here is his defence of perhaps the 
most horrible of all punishers - the torturer and execu- 

A sombre signal is given : an abject minister of justice comes 
to knock at his door and let him know that he is needed. He 
sets out; he arrives at the public square, which is crowded 
with an eager excited throng. A prisoner or a murderer or a 
blasphemer is given over to him. He seizes him and stretches 
and ties him on a horizontal cross; he lifts his arm and a 
horrible silence falls. Nothing is heard but the cry of the bones 
cracking under the heavy rod and the howlings of the victim. 
L Then he unties him and carries him to the wheel; the shat- 
tered limbs get twisted in the spokes; the head hangs; the hair 
stands out; and from the mouth, gaping open like a stove, 
come only now a few bloody words which at intervals beg for 
death. Now the executioner has finished; his heart beats, but it 
is for joy; he applauds himself, he says in his heart : 'Nobody 
is better at the wheel than I ! ' He comes down and holds out 
his blood-stained hand, and the Law throws into it from a 
distance some gold pieces which he carries away with him 
through a double hedge of people who draw away in horror. 
He sits down to table and eats; then he gets into bed and goes 
to sleep. When he wakes up the next day, he begins to think 

8a Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

about something quite different from the work he has been 
doing the day before. . . . All grandeur, all power, all dis- 
cipline are founded on the executioner. He is the horror of 
the human association and the tie that holds it together. Take 
out of the world this incomprehensible agent, and at that 
instant will order give way to chaos, thrones fall and society 
vanish. God, who is the source of all sovereignty, is, therefore, 
the source of punishment, too. 

If we no longer resort to torture in what we call the 
civilized world, we nevertheless still make extensive use 
of punitive techniques in both domestic and foreign rela- 
tions. And apparently for good reasons. Nature if not 
God has created man in such a way that he can be 
controlled punitively. People quickly become skilful pun- 
ishers (if not, thereby, skilful controllers), whereas al- 
ternative positive measures are not easily learned. The 
need for punishment seems to have the support of his- 
tory, and alternative practices threaten the cherished 
values of freedom and dignity. And so we go on punish- 
ing - and defending punishment. A contemporary de 
Maistre might defend war in similar terms: ‘All gran- 
deur, all power, all discipline are founded on the soldier. 
He is the horror of the human association and the tie 
that holds it together. Take out of the world this in- 
comprehensible agent, and at that instant will order give 
way to chaos, governments fall and society vanish. God, 
who is the source of all sovereignty, is, therefore, the 
source of war, too.’ 

Yet there are better ways, and the literatures of free- 
dom and dignity are not pointing to them. 


Except when physically constrained, a person is least free 
or dignified when under the threat of punishment. We 
should expect that the literatures of freedom and dignity 

Punishment 83 

would oppose punitive techniques, but in fact they have 
acted to preserve them. A person who has been punished 
is not thereby simply less inclined to behave in a given 
way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment. Some 
ways of doing so are maladaptive or neurotic, as in the so- 
called ‘Freudian dynamisms'. Other ways include avoid- 
ing situations in which punished behaviour is likely to 
occur and doing things which are incompatible with 
punished behaviour. Other people may take similar steps 
to reduce the likelihood that a person will be punished, 
but the literatures of freedom and dignity object to this 
as leading only to automatic goodness. Under punitive 
contingencies a person appears to be free to behave well 
and to deserve credit when he does so. Non-punitive con- 
tingencies generate the same behaviour, but a person 
cannot then be said to be free, and the contingencies de- 
serve the credit when he behaves well. Little or nothing 
remains for autonomous man to do and receive credit for 
doing. He does not engage in moral struggle and there- 
fore has no chance to be a moral hero or credited with 
inner virtues. But our task is not to encourage moral 
struggle or to build or demonstrate inner virtues. It is to 
make life less punishing and in doing so to release for 
more reinforcing activities the time and energy consumed 
in the avoidance of punishment. Up to a point the litera- 
tures of freedom and dignity have played a part in the 
slow and erratic alleviation of aversive features of the 
human environment, including the aversive features used 
in intentional control. But they have formulated the task 
in such a way that they cannot now accept the fact that 
all control is exerted by the environment and proceed to 
the design of better environments rather than of better 


Alternatives to Punishment 

Those who champion freedom and dignity do not, of 
course, confine themselves to punitive measures, but they 
turn to alternatives with diffidence and timidity. Their 
concern for autonomous man commits them to only in- 
effective measures, several of which we may now examine. 


An. all-out permissiveness has been seriously advanced as 
an alternative to punishment. No control at all is to be 
exerted, and the autonomy of the individual will there- 
fore remain unchallenged. If a person behaves well, it is 
because he is either innately good or self-controlled. Free- 
dom and dignity are guaranteed. A free and virtuous 
man needs no government (governments only corrupt), 
and under anarchy he can be naturally good and ad- 
mired for being so. He needs no orthodox religion; he is 
pious, and he behaves piously without following rules, 
perhaps with the help of direct mystical experience. He 
needs no organized economic incentives; he is naturally 
industrious and will exchange part of what he owns with 
others on fair terms under the natural conditions of sup- 
ply and demand. He needs no teacher; he learns because 
he loves learning, and his natural curiosity dictates what 
he needs to know. If life becomes too complex or if his 
natural status is disturbed by accidents or the intrusion 
of would-be controllers, he may have personal problems, 

Alternatives to Punishment 85 

but he will find his own solutions without the direction 
of a psychotherapist. 

Permissive practices have many advantages. They save 
the labour of supervision and the enforcement of sanc- 
tions. They do not generate counterattack. They do not 
expose the practitioner to the charge of restricting free- 
dom or destroying dignity. They exonerate him when 
things go wrong. If men behave badly towards each other 
in a permissive world, it is because human nature is less 
than perfect. If they fight when there is no government to 
preserve order, it is because they have aggressive instincts. 
If a child becomes delinquent when his parents have 
made no effort to control him, it is because he has associ- 
ated with the wrong people or has criminal tendencies. 

Permissiveness is not, however, a policy; it is the aban- 
donment of policy, and its apparent advantages are illu- 
sory. To refuse to control is to leave control not to the 
person himself, but to other parts of the social and non- 
social environments. 

The Controller as Midwife 

A method of modifying behaviour without appearing to 
exert control is represented by Socrates' metaphor of the 
midwife: one person helps another give birth to be- 
haviour. Since the midwife plays no part in conception 
and only a small part in parturition, the person who 
gives birth to the behaviour may take full credit for it. 
Socrates demonstrated the art of midwifery, or maieutics, 
in education. He pretended to show how an uneducated 
slave boy could be led to prove Pythagoras’ theorem for 
doubling the square. The boy assented to the steps in the 
proof, and Socrates claimed that he did so without being 
told - in other words, that he ‘knew’ the theorem in some 
sense all along. Socrates contended that even ordinary 

86 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

knowledge could be drawn out in the same way since the 
soul knew the truth and needed only to be shown that it 
knew it. The episode is often cited as if it were relevant 
to modern educational practice. 

The metaphor appears also in theories of psycho- 
therapy. The patient is not to be told how to behave 
more effectively or given directions for solving his prob- 
lems; a solution is already within him and has only to be 
drawn out with the help of the midwife-therapist. As one 
writer has put it: ‘Freud shared with Socrates three prin- 
ciples: know thyself; virtue is knowledge; and the 

maieutic method, or the art of midwifery, which is, of 
course, the [psycho-] analytic process.’ Similar practices in 
religion are associated with mysticism: a person does not 
need to follow rules, as orthodoxy would have it; right 
behaviour will well up from inner sources. 

Intellectual, therapeutic, and moral midwifery is scar- 
cely easier than punitive control, because it demands 
rather subtle skills and concentrated attention, but it has 
its advantages. It seems to confer a strange power on the 
practitioner. Like the cabalistic use of hints and allu- 
sions, it achieves results seemingly out of proportion to 
the measures employed. The apparent contribution of 
the individual is not reduced, however. He is given full 
credit for knowing before he learns, for having within 
him the seeds of good mental health, and for being able 
to enter into direct communication with God. An import- 
ant advantage is that the practitioner avoids responsi- 
bility. Just as it is not the midwife’s fault if the baby is 
stillborn or deformed, so the teacher is exonerated when 
the student fails, the psychotherapist when the patient 
does not solve his problem, and the mystical religious 
leader when his disciples behave badly. 

Maieutic practices have their place. Just how much 
help the teacher should give the student as he acquires 

Alternatives to Punishment 87 

new forms of behaviour is a delicate question. The 
teacher should wait for the student to respond rather 
than rush to tell him what he is to do or say. As Comenius 
put it, the more the teacher teaches, the less the student 
learns. The student gains in other ways. In general, we do 
not like to be told either what we already know or what 
we are unlikely ever to know well or to good effect. We 
do not read books if we are already thoroughly familiar 
with the material or if it is so completely unfamiliar that 
it is likely to remain so. We read books which help us say 
things we are on the verge of saying anyway but cannot 
quite say without help. We understand the author, al- 
though we could not have formulated what we Under- 
stand before he put it into words. There are similar 
advantages for the patient in psychotherapy. Maieutic 
practices are helpful, too, because they exert more 
control than is usually acknowledged and some of it 
may be valuable. 

These advantages, however, are far short of the claims 
made. Socrates’ slave boy learned nothing; there was no 
evidence whatever that he could have gone through the 
theorem by himself afterwards. And it is as true of maieu- 
tics as of permissiveness that positive results must be cred- 
ited to unacknowledged controls of other sorts. If the 
patient finds a solution without the help of his therapist, 
it is because he has been exposed to a helpful environ- 
ment elsewhere. 


Another metaphor associated with weak practices is hor- 
ticultural. The behaviour to which a person has given 
birth grows, and it may be guided or trained, as a grow- 
ing plant is trained. Behaviour may be ‘cultivated’. 

The metaphor is particularly at home in education. A 

88 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

school for small children is a child-garden, or kinder- 
garten. The behaviour of the child ‘develops’ until he 
reaches ‘maturity’. A teacher may accelerate the process 
or turn it in slightly different directions, but - in the 
classical phrase - he cannot teach, he can only help the 
student learn. The metaphor of guidance is also common 
in psychotherapy. Freud argued that a person must pass 
through several developmental stages, and that if the 
patient has become ‘fixated’ at a given stage, the therapist 
must help him break loose and move forward. Govern- 
ments engage in guidance - for example, when they en- 
courage the ‘development’ of industry through tax 
exemptions or provide a ‘climate’ that is favourable to the 
improvement of race relations. 

Guidance is not as easy as permissiveness, but it is usu- 
ally easier than midwifery, and it has some of the same 
advantages. One who merely guides a natural develop- 
ment cannot easily be accused of trying to control it. 
Growth remains an achievement of the individual, testi- 
fying to his freedom and worth, his 'hidden propensities’, 
and as the gardener is not responsible for the ultimate 
form of what he grows, so one who merely guides is exon- 
erated when things go wrong. 

Guidance is effective, however, only to the extent that 
control is exerted. To guide is either to open new oppor- 
tunities or to block growth in particular directions. To 
arrange an opportunity is not a very positive act, but it is 
nevertheless a form of control if it increases the likeli- 
hood that behaviour will be emitted. The teacher who 
merely selects the material the student is to study or the 
therapist who merely suggests a different job or change of 
scene has exerted control, though it may be hard to de- 

Control is more obvious when growth or development 
is prevented. Censorship blocks access to material needed 

Alternatives to Punishment 89 

for development in a given direction; it closes opportuni- 
ties. De Tocqueville saw this in the America of his day: 
‘The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and 
guided. Men are seldom forced to act, but they are 
constantly restrained from acting.’ As Ralph Barton 
Perry put it. 

Whoever determines what alternatives shall be made known 
to man controls what that man shall choose from. He is de- 
prived of freedom in proportion as he is denied access to any 
ideas, or is confined to to any range of ideas short of the totality 
of relevant possibilities. 

For 'deprived of freedom’ read ‘controlled’. 

It is no doubt valuable to create an environment in 
which a person acquires effective behaviour rapidly and 
continues to behave effectively. In constructing such an 
environment we may eliminate distractions and open op- 
portunities, and these are key points in the metaphor of 
guidance or growth or development; but it is the con- 
tingencies we arrange, rather than the unfolding of some 
predetermined pattern, which are responsible for the 
changes observed. 

Building Dependence on T kings 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was alert to the dangers of social 
control, and he thought it might be possible to avoid them 
by making a person dependent not on people but on 
things. In Emile he showed how a child could learn 
about things from the things themselves rather than from 
books. The practices he described are still common, 
largely because of John Dewey’s emphasis on real life in 
the classroom. 

One of the advantages in being dependent on things 
rather than on other people is that the time and energy 
of other people are saved. The child who must be re- 

go Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

minded that it is time to go to school is dependent upon 
his parents, but the child who has learned to respond to 
clocks and other temporal properties of the world around 
him (not to a ‘sense of time’) is dependent upon things, 
and he makes fewer demands on his parents. In learning 
to drive a car a person remains dependent on an instruc- 
tor as long as he must be told when to apply the brakes, 
when to signal a turn, when to change speeds, and so on; 
when his behaviour comes under the control of the nat- 
ural consequences of driving a car, he may dispense with 
the instructor. Among the ‘things’ upon which a person 
should become dependent are other people when they are 
not acting specifically to change his behaviour. The child 
who must be told what to say and how to behave with 
respect to other people is dependent upon those who tell 
him; the child who has learned how to get along with 
other people can dispense with advice. 

Another important advantage of being dependent on 
things is that the contingencies which involve things are 
more precise and shape more useful behaviour than con- 
tingencies arranged by other people. The temporal prop- 
erties of the environment are more pervasive and more 
subtle than any series of reminders. A person whose be- 
haviour in driving a car is shaped by the response of the 
car behaves more skilfully than one who is following in- 
structions. Those who get along well with people as the 
result of direct exposure to social contingencies are more 
skilful than those who have merely been told what to say 
and do. 

These are important advantages, and a world in which 
all behaviour is dependent on things is an attractive 
prospect. In such a world everyone would behave well 
with respect to his fellow men as he had learned to do 
when exposed to their approval and disapproval; he 
would work productively and carefully and exchange 

Alternatives to Punishment 9 1 

things with others because of their natural values; and he 
would learn things which naturally interest him and 
which are naturally useful. All this would be better than 
behaving well by obeying the law as enforced by police, 
working productively for the contrived reinforcers called 
money, and studying to get marks and grades. 

But things do not easily take control. The procedures 
Rousseau described were not simple, and they do not 
often work. The complex contingencies involving things 
(including people who are behaving ‘unintentionally’) 
can, unaided, have very little effect on an individual in 
his lifetime - a fact of great importance for reasons we 
shall note later. We must also remember that the control 
exercised by things may be destructive. The world of 
things can be tyrannical. Natural contingencies induce 
people to behave superstitiously, to risk greater and 
greater dangers, to work uselessly to exhaustion, and so 
on. Only the countercontrol exerted by a social environ- 
ment offers any protection against these consequences. 

Dependence on things is not independence. The child 
who does not need to be told that it is time to go to 
school has come under the control of more subtle, and 
more useful, stimuli. The child who has learned what to 
say and how to behave in getting along with other people 
is under the control of social contingencies. People who 
get along together well under the mild contingencies of 
approval and disapproval are controlled as effectively as 
(and in many ways more effectively than) the citizens of a 
police state. Orthodoxy controls through the establish- 
ment of rules, but the mystic is no freer because the con- 
tingencies which have shaped his behaviour are more 
personal or idiosyncratic. Those who work productively 
because of the reinforcing value of what they produce are 
under the sensitive and powerful control of the products. 
Those who learn in the natural environment are under a 

ga Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

form of control as powerful as any control exerted by a 

A person never becomes truly self-reliant. Even though 
he deals effectively with things, he is necessarily depen- 
dent upon those who have taught him to do so. They 
have selected the things he is dependent upon and de- 
termined the kinds and degrees of dependencies. (They 
cannot, therefore, disclaim responsibility for the results.) 

Changing Minds 

It is a surprising fact that those who object most violently 
to the manipulation of behaviour nevertheless make the 
most vigorous efforts to manipulate minds. Evidently 
freedom and dignity are threatened only when behaviour 
is changed by physically changing the environment. 
There appears to be no threat when the states of mind 
said to be responsible for behaviour are changed, pre- 
sumably because autonomous man possesses miraculous 
powers which enable him to yield or resist. 

It is fortunate that those who object to the manipula- 
tion of behaviour feel free to manipulate minds, since 
otherwise they would have to remain silent. But no one 
directly changes a mind. By manipulating environmental 
contingencies, one makes changes which are said to indi- 
cate a change of mind, but if there is any effect, it is on 
behaviour. The control is inconspicuous and not very 
effective, and some control therefore seems to be retained 
by the person whose mind changes. A few characteristic 
ways of changing minds may be examined. 

We sometimes induce a man to behave by prompting 
him (for example, when he is not able to solve a prob- 
lem), or by suggesting a course of action (for example, 
when he is at a loss as to what to do). Prompts, hints, and 
suggestions are all stimuli, usually but not always verbal, 

Alternatives to Punishment 93 

and they have the important property of exerting only 
partial control. No one responds to a prompt, hint, or 
suggestion unless he already has some tendency to behave 
in a given way. When the contingencies which explain 
the prevailing tendency are not identified, some part of 
the behaviour can be attributed to the mind. The inner 
control is particularly convincing when the external is 
not explicit, as when one tells an apparently irrelevant 
story which nevertheless serves as a prompt, hint, or sug- 
gestion. Setting an example exerts a similar kind of con- 
trol, exploiting a general tendency to behave imitatively. 
Advertising testimonials ‘control the mind’ in this way. 

We also seem to be acting upon the mind when we 
urge a person to act or persuade him to act. Etymologic- 
ally, to urge is to press or drive; it is to make an aversive 
situation more urgent. We urge a person to act as we 
might nudge him into acting. The stimuli are usually 
mild, but they are effective if they have been associated in 
the past with stronger aversive consequences. Thus, we 
urge on a dawdler by saying, 'Look what time it is,’ and 
we succeed in inducing him to hurry if earlier delays 
have been punished. We urge a person not to spend 
money by pointing to his low bank balance, and we are 
effective if he has suffered when he has run out of money 
in the past. We persuade people, however, by pointing to 
stimuli associated with positive consequences. Etymolo- 
gically, the word is related to sweeten. We persuade some- 
one by making a situation more favourable for action, as 
by describing likely reinforcing consequences. Here again 
there is an apparent discrepancy between the strength of 
the stimuli we use and the magnitude of the effect. Urg- 
ing and persuading are effective only if there is already 
some tendency to behave, and the behaviour can be at- 
tributed to an inner man only so long as that tendency is 

94 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

Beliefs, preferences, perceptions, needs, purposes, and 
opinions are other possessions of autonomous man which 
are said to change when we change minds. What is 
changed in each case is a probability of action. A person’s 
belief that a floor will hold him as he walks across it de- 
pends upon his past experience. If he has walked across it 
without incident many times, he will do so again readily, 
and his behaviour will not create any of the aversive 
stimuli felt as anxiety. He may report that he has ‘faith’ 
in the solidity of the floor or ‘confidence’ that it will hold 
him, but the kinds of things which are felt as faith or 
confidence are not states of mind; they are at best by- 
products of the behaviour in its relation to antecedent 
events, and they do not explain why a person walks as he 

We build ‘belief’ when we increase the probability of 
action by reinforcing behaviour. When we build a per- 
son’s confidence that a floor will hold him by inducing 
him to walk on it, we might not be said to be changing a 
belief, but we do so in the traditional sense when we give 
him verbal assurances that the floor is solid, demonstrate 
its solidity by walking on it ourselves, or describe its 
structure or state. The only difference is in the conspicu- 
ousness of the measures. The change which occurs as a 
person ‘learns to trust a floor’ by walking on it is the 
characteristic effect of reinforcement; the change which 
occurs when he is told that the floor is solid, when he sees 
someone else walking on it, or when he is ‘convinced’ by 
assurances that the floor will hold him depends upon past 
experiences which no longer make a conspicuous contri- 
bution. For example, a person who walks on surfaces 
which are likely to vary in their solidity (for example, a 
frozen lake) quickly forms a discrimination between sur- 
faces on which others are walking and surfaces on which 
no one is walking, or between surfaces called safe and 

Alternatives to Punishment 95 

surfaces called dangerous. He learns to walk confidently 
on the first and cautiously on the second. The sight of 
someone walking on a surface or an assurance that it is 
safe converts it from the second class into the first. The 
history during which the discrimination was formed may 
be forgotten, and the effect then seems to involve that 
inner event called a change of mind. 

Changes in preference, perceptions, needs, purposes at- 
titudes, opinions, and other attributes of mind may be 
analysed in the same way. We change the way a person 
looks at something, as well as what he sees when he looks, 
by changing the contingencies; we do not change some- 
thing called perception. We change the relative strengths 
of responses by differential reinforcement of alternative 
courses of action; we do not change something called a 
preference. We change the probability of an act by 
changing a condition of deprivation or aversive stimula- 
tion; we do not change a need. We reinforce behaviour in 
particular ways; we do not give a person a purpose or an 
intention. We change behaviour towards something, not 
an attitude towards it. We sample and change verbal be- 
haviour, not opinions. 

Another way to change a mind is to point to reasons 
why a person should behave in a given way, and the 
reasons are almost always consequences which are likely 
to be contingent on behaviour. Let us say that a child is 
using a knife in a dangerous way. We may avoid trouble 
by making the environment safer - by taking the knife 
away or giving him a safer kind - but that will not pre- 
pare him for a world with unsafe knives. Left alone, he 
may learn to use the knife properly by cutting himself 
whenever he uses it improperly. We may help by substi- 
tuting a less dangerous form of punishment - spanking 
him, for example, or perhaps merely shaming him when 
we find him using a knife in a dangerous way. We may 

96 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

tell him that some uses are bad and others good if ‘Bad! ' 
and 'Good ! ’ have already been conditioned as positive 
and negative reinforcers. Suppose, however, that all these 
methods have unwanted by-products, such as a change in 
his relation to us, and that we therefore decide to appeal 
to ‘reason’. (This is possible, of course, only if he has 
reached the ‘age of reason’.) We explain the contin- 
gencies, demonstrating what happens when one uses a 
knife in one way and not another. We may show him how 
rules may be extracted from the contingencies (’You should 
never cut towards yourself). As a result we may induce 
the child to use the knife properly and will be likely to 
say that we have imparted a knowledge of its proper use. 
But we have had to take advantage of a great deal of 
prior conditioning with respect to instructions, direc- 
tions, and other verbal stimuli, which are easily over- 
looked, and their contribution may then be attributed to 
autonomous man. A still more complex form of argument 
has to do with deriving new reasons from old, the process 
of deduction which depends upon a much longer verbal 
history and is particularly likely to be called changing a 

Ways of changing behaviour by changing minds are 
seldom condoned when they are clearly effective, even 
though it is still a mind which is apparently being 
changed. We do not condone the changing of minds 
when the contestants are unevenly matched; that is ‘un- 
due influence’. Nor do we condone changing minds sur- 
reptitiously. If a person cannot see what the would-be 
changer of minds is doing, he cannot escape or counter- 
attack; he is being exposed to ‘propaganda’. ‘Brainwash- 
ing’ is proscribed by those who otherwise condone the 
changing of minds simply because the control is obvious. 
A common technique is to build up a strong aversive 
condition, such as hunger or lack of sleep and, by allevi- 

Alternatives to Punishment 97 

ating it, to reinforce any behaviour which ‘shows a posi- 
tive attitude’ towards a political or religious system. A 
favourable ‘opinion’ is built up simply by reinforcing 
favourable statements. The procedure may not be obvi- 
ous to those upon whom it is used, but it is too obvious to 
others to be accepted as an allowable way of changing 

The illusion that freedom and dignity are respected 
when control seems incomplete arises in part from the 
probabilistic nature of operant behaviour. Seldom does 
any environmental condition ‘elicit’ behaviour in the all- 
or-nothing fashion of a reflex; it simply makes a bit of 
behaviour more likely to occur. A hint will not itself 
suffice to evoke a response, but it adds strength to a weak 
response which may then appear. The hint is conspicu- 
ous, but the other events responsible for the appearance 
of the response are not. 

Like permissiveness, maieutics, guidance, and building 
a dependence on things, changing a mind is condoned by 
the defenders of freedom and dignity because it is an 
ineffective way of changing behaviour, and the changer 
of minds can therefore escape from the charge that he is 
controlling people. He is also exonerated when things go 
wrong. Autonomous man survives to be credited with his 
achievements and blamed for his mistakes. 

The apparent freedom respected by weak measures is 
merely inconspicuous control. When we seem to turn 
control over to a person himself, we simply shift from one 
mode of control to another. A news weekly, discussing the 
legal control of abortion, contended that ‘the way to deal 
with the problem forthrightly is on terms that permit the 
individual, guided by conscience and intelligence, to 
make a choice unhampered by archaic and hypocritical 
concepts and statutes’. What is recommended is not a 

98 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

shift from legal control to ‘choice’ but to the control pre- 
viously exerted by religious, ethical, governmental, and 
educational agencies. The individual is ‘permitted’ to de- 
cide the issue for himself simply in the sense that he will 
act because of consequences to which legal punishment is 
no longer to be added. 

A permissive government is a government that leaves 
control to other sources. If people behave well under it, it 
is because they have been brought under effective ethical 
control or the control of things, or have been induced by 
educational and other agencies to behave in loyal, patri- 
otic, and law-abiding ways. Only when other forms of 
control are available is that government best which gov- 
erns least. To the extent that government is defined by 
the power to punish, the literature of freedom has been 
valuable in promoting a shift to other measures, but in 
no other sense has it freed people from governmental 

A free economy does not mean the absence of economic 
control, because no economy is free as long as goods and 
money remain reinforcing. When we refuse to impose 
control over wages, prices, and the use of natural re- 
sources in order not to interfere with individual initia- 
tive, we leave the individual under the control of un- 
planned economic contingencies. Nor is any school ‘free’. 
If the teacher does not teach, students will learn only 
if less explicit but still effective contingencies prevail. The 
non-directive psychotherapist may free his patient from 
certain harmful contingencies in his daily life, but the 
patient will ‘find his own solution’ only if ethical, govern- 
mental, religious, educational, or other contingencies in- 
duce him to do so. 

(The contact between therapist and patient is a sensi- 
tive subject. The therapist, no matter how ‘non-directive’, 
sees his patient, talks with him, and listens to him. He is 

Alternatives to Punishment 99 

professionally concerned for his welfare, and if he is sym- 
pathetic, he cares for him. All this is reinforcing. It has 
been suggested, however, that the therapist can avoid 
changing his patient’s behaviour if he makes these rein- 
forcers non-contingent - that is, if they are not permitted 
to follow any particular form of behaviour. As one writer 
has put it, ‘The therapist responds as a congruent person, 
with sensitive empathy and unqualified caring that, in 
learning theory terms, rewards the client as much for one 
behaviour as for any other.’ This is probably an imposs- 
ible assignment and in any case would not have the 
effect claimed. Non-contingent reinforcers are not ineffec- 
tive; a reinforcer always reinforces something. When a 
therapist shows that he cares, he reinforces any behaviour 
the patient has just emitted. One reinforcement, acci- 
dental though it may be, strengthens behaviour which is 
then more likely to occur and be reinforced again. The 
resulting ‘superstition’ can be demonstrated in pigeons, 
and it is unlikely that men have become less sensitive to 
adventitious reinforcement. Being good to someone for 
no reason at all, treating him affectionately whether he is 
good or bad, does have Biblical support: grace must not 
be contingent upon works or it is no longer grace. But 
there are behavioural processes to be taken into account.) 

The fundamental mistake made by all those who 
choose weak methods of control is to assume that the bal- 
ance of control is left to the individual, when in fact it is 
left to other conditions. The other conditions are often 
hard to see, but to continue to neglect them and to attri- 
bute their effects to autonomous man is to court disaster. 
When practices are concealed or disguised, countercon- 
trol is made difficult; it is not clear from whom one is to 
escape or whom one is to attack. The literatures of free- 
dom and dignity were once brilliant exercises in counter- 
control, but the measures they proposed are no longer 

loo Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

appropriate to the task. On the contrary, they may have 
serious consequences, to which we must now turn. 


The freedom and dignity of autonomous man seem to be 
preserved when only weak forms of non-aversive control 
are used. Those who use them seem to defend themselves 
against the charge that they are attempting to control 
behaviour, and they are exonerated when things go 
wrong. Permissiveness is the absence of control, and if it 
appears to lead to desirable results, it is only because of 
other contingencies. Maieutics, or the art of midwifery, 
seems to leave behaviour to be credited to those who give 
birth to it, and the guidance of development to those who 
develop. Human intervention seems to be minimized 
when a person is made dependent upon things rather 
than upon other people. Various ways of changing be- 
haviour by changing minds are not only condoned but 
vigorously practised by the defenders of freedom and dig- 
nity. There is a good deal to be said for minimizing cur- 
rent control by other people, but other measures still 
operate. A person who responds in acceptable ways to 
weak forms of control may have been changed by contin- 
gencies which are no longer operative. By refusing to 
recognize them, the defenders of freedom and dignity en- 
courage the misuse of controlling practices and block 
progress towards a more effective technology of behav- 



In what we may call the pre-scientific view (and the word 
is not necessarily pejorative) a person’s behaviour is at 
least to some extent his own achievement. He is free to 
deliberate, decide, and act, possibly in original ways, and 
he is to be given credit for his successes and blamed for 
his failures. In the scientific view (and the word is not 
necessarily honorific) a person’s behaviour is determined 
by a genetic endowment traceable to the evolutionary 
history of the species and by the environmental circum- 
stances to which as an individual he has been exposed. 
Neither view can be proved, but it is in the nature of 
scientific inquiry that the evidence should shift in favour 
of the second. As we learn more about the effects of the 
environment, we have less reason to attribute any part of 
human behaviour to an autonomous controlling agent. 
And the second view shows a marked advantage when we 
begin to do something about behaviour. Autonomous 
man is not easily changed: in fact, to the extent that he is 
autonomous, he is by definition not changeable at all. 
But the environment can be changed, and we are learn- 
ing how to change it. The measures we use are those of 
physical and biological technology, but we use them in 
special ways to affect behaviour. 

Something is missing in this shift from internal to ex- 
ternal control. Internal control is presumably exerted not 
only by but for autonomous man. But for whom is a 
powerful technology of behaviour to be used? Who is to 

102 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

use it? And to what end? We have been implying that 
the effects of one practice are better than those of another, 
but on what grounds? What is the good against which 
something else is called better? Can we define the good 
life? Or progress towards a good life? Indeed, what is 
progress? What, in a word, is the meaning of life, for the 
individual or the species? 

Questions of this sort seem to point towards the future, 
to be concerned not with man’s origins but with his des- 
tiny. They are said, of course, to involve ‘value judge- 
ments’ - to raise questions not about facts but about how 
men feel about facts, not about what man can do but 
about what he ought to do. It is usually implied that the 
answers are out of reach of science. Physicists and biolo- 
gists often agree, and with some justification, since their 
sciences do not, indeed, have the answers. Physics may tell 
us how to build a nuclear bomb but not whether it 
should be built. Biology may tell us how to control birth 
and postpone death but not whether we ought to do so. 
Decisions about the uses of science seem to demand a 
kind of wisdom which, for some curious reason, scientists 
are denied. If they are to make value judgements at all, it 
is only with the wisdom they share with people in gen- 

It would be a mistake for the behavioural scientist to 
agree. How people feel about facts, or what it means to 
feel anything, is a question for which a science of be- 
haviour should have an answer. A fact is no doubt differ- 
ent from what a person feels about it, but the latter is a 
fact also. What causes trouble, here as elsewhere, is the 
appeal to what people feel. A more useful form of the 
question is this: If a scientific analysis can tell us how to 
change behaviour, can it tell us what changes to make? 
This is a question about the behaviour of those who do 
in fact propose and make changes. People act to improve 

Values 103 

the world and to progress towards a better way of life for 
good reasons, and among the reasons are certain conse- 
quences of their behaviour, and among these conse- 
quences are the things people value and call good. 

We may begin with some simple examples. There are 
things which almost everyone calls good. Some things 
taste good, feel good, or look good. We say this as readily 
as we say that they taste sweet, feel rough, or look red. Is 
there then some physical property possessed by all good 
things? Almost certainly not. There is not even any com- 
mon property possessed by all sweet, rough, or red things. 
A grey surface looks red if we have been looking at a blue- 
green one; plain paper feels smooth if we have been feel- 
ing sandpaper or rough if we have been feeling plate 
glass; and tap water tastes sweet if we have been eating 
artichokes. Some part of what we call red or smooth or 
sweet must therefore be in the eyes or fingertips or tongue 
of the beholder, feeler, or taster. What we attribute to an 
object when we call it red, rough, or sweet is in part a 
condition of our own body, resulting (in these examples) 
from recent stimulation. Conditions of the body are 
much more important, and for a different reason, when 
we call something good. 

Good things are positive reinforcers. The food that 
tastes good reinforces us when we taste it. Things that 
feel good reinforce us when we feel them. Things that 
look good reinforce us when we look at them. When we 
say colloquially that we ‘go for’ such things, we identify a 
kind of behaviour which is frequently reinforced by 
them. (The things we call bad also have no common 
property. They are all negative reinforcers, and we are 
reinforced when we escape from or avoid them.) 

When we say that a value judgement is a matter not of 
fact but of how someone feels about a fact, we are simply 

104 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

distinguishing between a thing and its reinforcing effect. 
Things themselves are studied by physics and biology, 
usually without reference to their value, but the reinforc- 
ing effects of things are the province of behavioural 
science, which, to the extent that it is concerned with 
operant reinforcement, is a science of values. 

Things are good (positively reinforcing) or bad (nega- 
tively reinforcing) presumably because of the contingen- 
cies of survival under which the species evolved. There is 
obvious survival value in the fact that certain foods are 
reinforcing; it has meant that men have more quickly 
learned to find, grow, or catch them. A susceptibility to 
negative reinforcement is equally important; those who 
have been most highly reinforced when they have escaped 
from or avoided potentially dangerous conditions have 
enjoyed obvious advantages. As a result it is part of the 
genetic endowment called ‘human nature’ to be rein- 
forced in particular ways by particular things. (It is also 
part of that endowment that new stimuli become rein- 
forcing through ‘respondent’ conditioning - that the 
sight of fruit, for example, becomes reinforcing if, after 
looking at the fruit, we bite into it and find it good. The 
possibility of respondent conditioning does not change 
the fact that all reinforcers eventually derive their power 
from evolutionary selection.) 

To make a value judgement by calling something good 
or bad is to classify it in terms of its reinforcing effects. 
The classification is important, as we shall see in a mo- 
ment, when reinforcers begin to be used by other people 
(when, for example, the verbal responses ‘Good!’ and 
‘Bad ! ’ begin to function as reinforcers), but things were 
reinforcing long before they were called good or bad - 
and they are still reinforcing to animals who do not call 
them good or bad and to babies and other people who 
are not able to do so. The reinforcing effect is the im- 

Values 105 

portant thing, but is this what is meant by ‘the way men 
feel about things’? Are things not reinforcing because 
they feel good or bad ? 

Feelings are said to be part of the armamentarium of 
autonomous man, and some further comment is in order. 
A person feels things within his body as he feels things on 
its surface. He feels a lame muscle as he feels a slap on the 
face, he feels depressed as he feels a cold wind. Two im- 
portant differences arise from the difference in location. 
In the first place, he can feel things outside his skin in an 
active sense; he can feel a surface by running his fingers 
over it to enrich the stimulation he receives from it, but 
even though there are ways in which he can ‘heighten his 
awareness’ of the things inside his body, he does not 
actively feel them in the same way. 

A more important difference is in the way a person 
learns to feel things. A child learns to distinguish among 
different colours, tones, odours, tastes, temperatures, and 
so on only when they enter into contingencies of rein- 
forcement. If red candies have a reinforcing flavour and 
green candies do not, the child takes and eats red candies. 
Some important contingencies are verbal. Parents teach a 
child to name colours by reinforcing correct responses. If 
the child says ‘Blue’ and the object before him is blue, 
the parent says ‘Good ! ’ or ‘Right ! ’ If the object is red, 
the parent says ‘Wrong!’ This is not possible when 
the child is learning to respond to things inside his 
body. A person who is teaching a child to distinguish 
among his feelings is a little like a colour-blind person 
teaching a child to name colours. The teacher cannot 
be sure of the presence or absence of the condition 
which determines whether a response is to be reinforced 
or not. 

In general the verbal community cannot arrange the 
subtle contingencies necessary to teach fine distinctions 

106 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

among stimuli which are inaccessible to it. It must rely 
on visible evidence of the presence or absence of a private 
condition. A parent may teach a child to say ‘I am 
hungry’ not because he feels what the child is feeling, but 
because he sees him eating ravenously or behaving in some 
other way related to deprivation of, or reinforcement 
with, food. The evidence may be good, and the child may 
learn to ‘describe his feelings’ with some accuracy, but 
this is by no means always the case, because many feelings 
have inconspicuous behavioural manifestations. As a re- 
sult the language of emotion is not precise. We tend to 
describe our emotions with terms which have been 
learned in connection with other kinds of things; almost 
all the words we use were originally metaphors. 

We may teach a child to call things good by reinforcing 
him according to how they taste, look, or feel to us, but 
not everyone finds the same things good, and we can be 
wrong. The only other available evidence is from the 
child’s behaviour. If we give a child a new food and he 
begins to eat it actively, the first taste has obviously been 
reinforcing, and we then tell him that the food is good 
and agree with him when he calls it good. But the child 
has other information. He feels other effects, and later he 
will call other things good if they have the same effects, 
even though active eating is not among them. 

There is no important causal connection between the 
reinforcing effect of a stimulus and the feelings to which 
it gives rise. We might be tempted to say, following Wil- 
liam James’s reinterpretation of emotion, that a stimulus 
is not reinforcing because it feels good but feels good be- 
cause it is reinforcing. But the ‘because’s’ are again mis- 
leading. Stimuli are reinforcing and produce conditions 
which are felt as good for a single reason, to be found in 
an evolutionary history. 

Even as a clue, the important thing is not the feeling 

Values 107 

but the thing felt. It is the glass that feels smooth, not a 
‘feeling of smoothness’. It is the reinforcer that feels good, 
not the good feeling. Men have generalized the feelings 
of good things and called them pleasure and the feelings 
of bad things and called them pain, but we do not give a 
man pleasure or pain, we give him things he feels as 
pleasant or painful. Men do not work to maximize pleas- 
ure and minimize pain, as the hedonists have insisted; 
they work to produce pleasant things and to avoid pain- 
ful things. Epicurus was not quite right: pleasure is not 
the ultimate good, pain the ultimate evil; the only-good 
things are positive reinforcers, and the only-bad things 
are negative reinforcers. What is maximized or mini- 
mized, or what is ultimately good or bad, are things, not 
feelings, and men work to achieve them or to avoid them 
not because of the way they feel but because they are 
positive or negative reinforcers. (When we call something 
pleasing, we may be reporting a feeling, but the feeling is 
a by-product of the fact that a pleasing thing is quite 
literally a reinforcing thing. We speak of sensory gratifi- 
cation as if it were a matter of feelings, but to gratify is to 
reinforce, and gratitude refers to reciprocal reinforce- 
ment. We call a reinforcer satisfying, as if we were report- 
ing a feeling; but the word literally refers to a change in 
the state of deprivation which makes an object reinforc- 
ing. To be satisfied is to be sated.) 

Some of the simple goods which function as reinforcers 
come from other people. People keep warm or safe by 
keeping close together, they reinforce each other sexually, 
and they share, borrow, or steal each other’s possessions. 
Reinforcement by another person need not be inten- 
tional. One person learns to clap his hands to attract the 
attention of another, but the other does not turn in order 
to induce him to clap again. A mother learns to calm a 

io8 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

disturbed child by caressing him, but the child does not 
become silent to induce her to caress him again. A man 
learns to drive away an enemy by striking him, but the 
enemy does not depart to induce him to strike on another 
occasion. In each case we call the reinforcing action unin- 
tentional. It becomes intentional if the effect is reinforc- 
ing. A person acts intentionally, as we have seen, not in 
the sense that he possesses an intention which he then 
carries out, but in the sense that his behaviour has been 
strengthened by consequences. A child who cries until 
caressed begins to cry intentionally. A boxing instructor 
may teach his pupil to strike him in a given way by acting 
as if hurt. One person is not likely to attend to another in 
order to induce him to clap his hands, but he may do so 
intentionally if that way of having one’s attention called 
is less aversive than another. 

When other people intentionally arrange and main- 
tain contingencies of reinforcement, the person affected 
by the contingencies may be said to be behaving ‘for the 
good of others.’ Probably the first, and still the common- 
est, contingencies generating such behaviour are aversive. 
Anyone who has the necessary power can treat others 
aversively until they respond in ways that reinforce him. 
Methods using positive reinforcement are harder to learn 
and less likely to be used because the results are usually 
deferred, but they have the advantage of avoiding 
counterattack. Which method is used often depends upon 
the available power: the strong threaten physical harm, 
the ugly frighten, the physically attractive reinforce sexu- 
ally, and the wealthy pay. Verbal reinforcers derive their 
power from the specific reinforcers with which they are 
used, and since they are used with different reinforcers 
from time to time, the effect may be generalized. We rein- 
force a person positively by saying ‘Good!’ or ‘Right!’ 
and negatively by saying ‘Bad!’ or ‘Wrong!’ and these 

Values 109 

verbal stimuli are effective because they have been ac- 
companied by other reinforcers. 

(A distinction may be made between the two pairs of 
words. Behaviour is called good or bad - and the ethical 
overtones are not accidents - according to the way in 
which it is usually reinforced by others. Behaviour is 
usually called right or wrong with respect to other contin- 
gencies. There is a right and a wrong way to do some- 
thing; a given move in driving a car is right rather than 
merely good and another move wrong rather than merely 
bad. A similar distinction may be made between praise 
and reproof on the one hand and credit and blame on 
the other. We praise and reprove people in general when 
their behaviour is positively or negatively reinforcing to 
us, with no reference to the products of their behaviour, 
but when we give a man credit for an achievement or 
blame him for trouble, we point to the achievement or 
the trouble and emphasize that they are indeed the con- 
sequences of his behaviour. We use ‘Right I ’ and ‘Good! ’ 
almost interchangeably, however, and the distinction be- 
tween praising and giving credit is perhaps not always 
worth making.) 

The effect of a reinforcer which cannot be attributed 
to its survival value in the course of evolution (the effect 
of heroin, for example) is presumably anomalous. Condi- 
tioned reinforcers may seem to suggest other kinds of 
susceptibilities, but they are effective because of circum- 
stances in a person’s earlier history. According to Dodds, 
the Homeric Greek fought with inspired zeal to achieve 
not happiness but the esteem of his fellow men. Happi- 
ness may be taken to represent the personal reinforcers 
which can be attributed to survival value and esteem 
some of the conditioned reinforcers used to induce a per- 
son to behave for the good of others, but all conditioned 
reinforcers derive their power from personal reinforcers 

l io Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

(in traditional terms, public interest is always based on 
private interest) and hence from the evolutionary history 
of the species. 

How one feels about behaving for the good of others 
depends upon the reinforcers used. Feelings are by-pro- 
ducts of the contingencies and throw no further light on 
the distinction between public and private. We do not 
say that simple biological reinforcers are effective because 
of self-love, and we should not attribute behaving for the 
good of others to a love of others. In working for the good 
of others a person may feel love or fear, loyalty or obli- 
gation, or any other condition arising from the contin- 
gencies responsible for the behaviour. A person does not 
act for the good of others because of a feeling of belong- 
ingness or refuse to act because of feelings of alienation. 
His behaviour depends upon the control exerted by the 
social environment. 

When one person is induced to act for the good of 
another, we may ask whether the result is fair or just. Are 
the goods received by the two parties commensurate? 
When one person controls another aversively, there is no 
commensurate good, and positive reinforcers may also be 
used in such a way that the gains are far from equal. 
Nothing in the behavioural processes guarantees fair 
treatment, since the amount of behaviour generated by a 
reinforcer depends upon the contingencies in which it 
appears. In an extreme case a person may be reinforced 
by others on a schedule which costs him his life. Suppose, 
for example, that a group is threatened by a predator 
(the ‘monster’ of mythology). Someone possessing special 
strength or skill attacks and kills the monster or drives 
him away. The group, released from threat, reinforces the 
hero with approval, praise, honour, affection, celebra- 
tions, statues, arches of triumph, and the hand of the 
princess. Some of this may be unintentional, but it is 

Values 1 1 1 

nevertheless reinforcing to the hero. Some may be inten- 
tional - that is, the hero is reinforced precisely to induce 
him to take on other monsters. The important fact about 
such contingencies is that the greater the threat, the 
greater the esteem accorded the hero who alleviates it. 
The hero therefore takes on more and more dangerous 
assignments until he is killed. The contingencies are not 
necessarily social; they are found in other dangerous 
activities such as mountain climbing, where the release 
from threat becomes more reinforcing the greater the 
threat. (That a behavioural process should thus go wrong 
and lead to death is no more a violation of the principle 
of natural selection than the phototropic behaviour of 
the moth, which has survival value when it leads the 
moth into sunlight but proves lethal when it leads into 

As we have seen, the issue of fairness or justice is often 
simply a matter of good husbandry. The question is 
whether reinforcers are being used wisely. Two other 
words long associated with value judgements but not so 
clearly a matter of husbandry are ‘should’ and ‘ought’. We 
use them to clarify non-social contingencies. ‘To get to 
Boston you should (you ought to) follow Route l’ is 
simply a way of saying ‘If you will be reinforced by reach- 
ing Boston, you will be reinforced if you follow Route i.’ 
To say that following Route i is the ‘right’ way to get to 
Boston is not an ethical or moral judgement but a state- 
ment about a highway system. Something closer to a 
value judgement may seem to be present in such an 
expression as ‘You should (you ought to) read David 
Copperfield' , which may be translated, ‘You will be rein- 
forced if you read David Copperfield.’ It is a value judge- 
ment to the extent that it implies that the book will be 
reinforcing. We can bring the implication into the open 
by mentioning some of our evidence: ‘If you enjoyed 

i is Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

Great Expectations, you should (you ought to) read 
David Copperfield.' This value judgement is correct if it is 
generally true that those who are reinforced by Great Ex- 
pectations are also reinforced by David Copperfield. 

‘Should’ and ‘ought’ begin to raise more difficult ques- 
tions when we turn to the contingencies under which a 
person is induced to behave for the good of others. ‘You 
should (you ought to) tell the truth’ is a value judgement 
to the extent that it refers to reinforcing contingencies. 
We might translate it as follows: ‘If you are reinforced 
by the approval of your fellow men, you will be rein- 
forced when you tell the truth.’ The value is to be found 
in the social contingencies maintained for purposes of 
control. It is an ethical or moral judgement in the sense 
that ethos and mores refer to the customary practices of a 

This is an area in which it is easy to lose sight of the 
contingencies. A person drives a car well because of the 
contingencies of reinforcement which have shaped and 
which maintain his behaviour. The behaviour is tradi- 
tionally explained by saying that he possesses the know- 
ledge or skill needed to drive a car, but the knowledge 
and skill must then be traced to contingencies that might 
have been used to explain the behaviour in the first 
place. We do not say that a person does what he ‘ought to 
do’ in driving a car because of any inner sense of what is 
right. We are likely to appeal to some such inner virtue, 
however, to explain why a person behaves well with re- 
spect to his fellow men, but he does so not because his 
fellow men have endowed him with a sense of responsi- 
bility or obligation or with loyalty or respect for others 
but because they have arranged effective social contin- 
gencies. The behaviours classified as good or bad and 
right or wrong are not due to goodness or badness, or a 
good or bad character, or a knowledge of right and 

Values 113 

wrong; they are due to contingencies involving a great 
variety of reinforcers, including the generalized verbal 
reinforcers of ‘Good! ’ ‘Bad! ’ ‘Right! ’ and ‘Wrong! ’ 

Once we have identified the contingencies that control 
the behaviour called good or bad and right or wrong, the 
distinction between facts and how people feel about facts 
is clear. How people feel about facts is a by-product. The 
important thing is what they do about them, and what 
they do is a fact that is to be understood by examining 
relevant contingencies. Karl Popper has stated a contrary 
traditional position as follows: 

In face of the sociological fact that most people adopt the 
norm 'Thou shalt not steal’, it is still possible to decide to 
adopt either this norm, or its opposite; and it is possible to 
encourage those who have adopted the norm to hold fast to 
it, or to discourage them, and to persuade them to adopt 
another norm. It is impossible to derive a sentence stating a 
norm or a decision from a sentence stating a fact ; this is only 
another way of saying that it is impossible to derive norms or 
decisions from facts. 

The conclusion is valid only if indeed it is ‘possible to 
adopt a norm or its opposite’. Here is autonomous man 
playing his most awe-inspiring role, but whether or not a 
person obeys the norm ‘Thou shalt not steal’ depends 
upon supporting contingencies, which must not be over- 

Some relevant facts may be cited. Long before anyone 
formulated the ‘norm’, people attacked those who stole 
from them. At some point stealing came to be called 
wrong and as such was punished even by those who had 
not been robbed. Someone familiar with these contin- 
gencies, possibly from having been exposed to them, 
could then advise another person: 'Don’t steal.’ If he had 
sufficient prestige or authority, he would not need to des- 
cribe the contingencies further. The stronger form. 

1 14 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

‘Thou shalt not steal’, as one of the Ten Commandments, 
suggests supernatural sanctions. Relevant social contin- 
gencies are implied by ‘You ought not to steal’, which 
could be translated, ‘If you tend to avoid punishment, 
avoid stealing’, or ‘Stealing is wrong, and wrong behav- 
iour is punished.’ Such a statement is no more normative 
than ‘If coffee keeps you awake when you want to go to 
sleep, don’t drink it.’ 

A rule or law includes a statement of prevailing con- 
tingencies, natural or social. One may follow a rule or 
obey a law simply because of the contingencies to which 
the rule or law refers, but those who formulate rules and 
laws usually supply additional contingencies. A construc- 
tion worker follows a rule by wearing a hard hat. The 
natural contingencies, which involve protection from fall- 
ing objects, are not very effective, and the rule must 
therefore be enforced: those who do not wear hard hats 
will be discharged. There is no natural connection be- 
tween wearing a hard hat and keeping a job; the con- 
tingency is maintained to support the natural but less 
effective contingencies involving protection from falling 
objects. A parallel argument could be made for any rule 
involving social contingencies. In the long run people be- 
have more effectively if they have been told the truth, but 
the gains are too remote to affect the truth-teller, and 
additional contingencies are needed to maintain the be- 
haviour. Telling the truth is therefore called good. It is 
the right thing to do, and telling lies is bad and wrong. 
The ‘norm’ is simply a statement of the contingencies. 

Intentional control ‘for the good of others’ becomes 
more powerful when it is exercised by religious, govern- 
mental, economic, and educational organizations. A 
group maintains some kind of order by punishing its 
members when they misbehave, but when this function is 

Values 1 1 5 

taken over by a government, punishment is assigned to 
specialists, to whom more powerful forms such as fines, 
imprisonment, or death are available. ‘Good’ and 'bad’ 
become ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’, and the contingencies are 
codified in laws specifying behaviour and contingent 
punishments. Laws are useful to those who must obey 
them because they specify the behaviour to be avoided, 
and they are useful to those who enforce them because 
they specify the behaviour to be punished. The group is 
replaced by a much more sharply defined agency - a state 
or nation - whose authority or power to punish may be 
signalized with ceremonies, flags, music, and stories about 
prestigious law-abiding citizens and notorious law- 

A religious agency is a special form of government 
under which ‘good’ and ‘bad’ become ‘pious’ and ‘sinful’. 
Contingencies involving positive and negative reinforce- 
ment, often of the most extreme sort, are codified - for 
example, as commandments - and maintained by special- 
ists, usually with the support of ceremonies, rituals, and 
stories. Similarly, where the members of an unorganized 
group exchange goods and services under informal con- 
tingencies, an economic institution or agency clarifies 
special roles - such as those of employer, worker, buyer, 
and seller - and constructs special types of reinforcers, 
such as money and credit. Contingencies are described in 
agreements, contracts, and so on. Similarly, the members 
of an informal group learn from each other with or with- 
out intentional instruction, but organized education em- 
ploys specialists called teachers, who operate in special 
places called schools, by arranging contingencies involv- 
ing special reinforcers such as grades and diplomas. 
‘Good’ and ‘bad’ become ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and the be- 
haviour to be learned may be codified in syllabuses and 

1 1 6 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

As organized agencies induce people to behave ‘for the 
good of others’ more effectively, they change what is felt. 
A person does not support his government because he is 
loyal but because the government has arranged special 
contingencies. We call him loyal and teach him to call 
himself loyal and to report any special conditions he may 
feel as ‘loyalty’. A person does not support a religion be- 
cause he is devout; he supports it because of the contin- 
gencies arranged by the religious agency. We call him 
devout and teach him to call himself devout and report 
what he feels as ‘devotion’. Conflicts among feelings, as in 
the classical literary themes of love versus duty or patriot- 
ism versus faith, are really conflicts between contingen- 
cies of reinforcement. 

As the contingencies which induce a man to behave 
'for the good of others’ become more powerful, they over- 
shadow contingencies involving personal reinforcers. 
They may then be challenged. Challenge is, of course, a 
metaphor which suggests a match or battle, and what 
people actually do in response to excessive or conflicting 
control can be more explicitly described. We saw the pat- 
tern in the struggle for freedom in Chapter 2. A person 
may defect from a government, turning to the informal 
control of a smaller group or to a Thoreauvian solitude. 
He may become an apostate from orthodox religion, 
turning to the ethical practices of an informal group or 
the seclusion of a hermitage. He may escape from organ- 
ized economic control, turning to an informal exchange 
of goods and services or a solitary subsistence. He. may 
abandon the organized knowledge of scholars and scien- 
tists, in favour of personal experience (turning from Wis- 
sen to Verstehen). Another possibility is to weaken or 
destroy those who impose the control, possibly by setting 
up a competing system. 

Values 117 

These moves are often accompanied by verbal behav- 
iour which supports non-verbal action and induces others 
to participate. The value or validity of the reinforcers 
used by other people and by organized agencies may be 
questioned: ‘Why should I seek the admiration or avoid 
the censure of my fellow men?’ ‘What can my govern- 
ment - or any government - really do to me?’ ‘Can a 
church actually determine whether I am to be eternally 
damned or blessed?’ ‘What is so wonderful about money 
- d6 I need all the things it buys?’ ‘Why should I study 
the things set forth in a college catalogue?’ In short, ‘Why 
should I behave “for the good of others”?’ 

When the control exercised by others is thus evaded or 
destroyed, only the personal reinforcers are left. The in- 
dividual turns to immediate gratification, possibly 
through sex or drugs. If he does not need to do much to 
find food, shelter, and safety, little behaviour will be 
generated. His condition is then described by saying that 
he is suffering from a lack of values. As Maslow pointed 
out, valuelessness is ‘variously described as anomie, amor- 
ality, anhedonia, rootlessness, emptiness, hopelessness, the 
lack of something to believe in and be devoted to’. These 
terms all seem to refer to feelings or states of mind, but 
what are missing are effective reinforcers. Anomie and 
amorality refer to a lack of the contrived reinforcers 
which induce people to observe rules. Anhedonia, root- 
lessness, emptiness, and hopelessness point to the absence 
of reinforcers of all kinds. The ‘something to believe in 
and be devoted to’ is to be found among the contrived 
contingencies which induce people to behave ‘for the 
good of others’. 

The distinction between feelings and contingencies is 
particularly important when practical action must be 
taken. If the individual is indeed suffering from some 
internal state called valuelessness, then we can solve the 

1 18 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

problem only by altering that state - for example, by 
‘reactivating moral power’, ‘animating moral force’, or 
‘strengthening moral fibre or spiritual commitment’. 
What must be changed are the contingencies, whether we 
regard them as responsible for the defective behaviour or 
for the feelings said to explain the behaviour. 

A common proposal is to strengthen the original con- 
trols, eliminating conflicts, using stronger reinforcers, and 
sharpening the contingencies. If people do not work, it is 
not because they are lazy or shiftless but because they are 
not paid enough or because either welfare or affluence 
has made economic reinforcers less effective. The good 
things in life have only to be made properly contingent 
on productive labour. If citizens are not law-abiding, it is 
not because they are scofflaws or criminals but because 
law enforcement has grown lax; the problem can be 
solved by refusing to suspend or abridge sentences, by 
increasing the police force, and by passing stronger laws. 
If students do not study, it is not because they are not 
interested but because standards have been lowered or 
because the subjects taught are no longer relevant to a 
satisfactory life. Students will actively seek an education 
if the prestige accorded knowledge and skills is restored. 
(An incidental result will be that people will then feel 
industrious, law-abiding, and interested in getting an 

Such proposals to strengthen old modes of control are 
correctly called reactionary. The strategy may be success- 
ful, but it will not correct the trouble. Organized control 
‘for the good of others’ will continue to compete with 
personal reinforcers, and different kinds of organized 
control with each other. The balance of goods received by 
controller and controllee will remain unfair or unjust. If 
the problem is simply to correct the balance, any move 
which makes control more effective is in the wrong direc- 

Values 1 19 

tion, but any move towards complete individualism or 
complete freedom from control is in the wrong direction 

The first step in solving the problem is to identify all 
the goods received by the individual when he is con- 
trolled for the good of others. Other people exert control 
by manipulating the personal reinforcers to which the 
human organism is susceptible, together with condi- 
tioned reinforcers, such as praise or blame, derived from 
them. But there are other consequences which are easily 
overlooked because they do not occur immediately. We 
have already discussed the problem of making deferred 
aversive consequences effective. A similar problem arises 
when the deferred consequences are positively reinforc- 
ing. It is important enough to justify further comment. 

The process of operant conditioning presumably 
evolved when those organisms which were more sensi- 
tively affected by the consequences of their behaviour 
were better able to adjust to the environment and sur- 
vive. Only fairly immediate consequences could be effec- 
tive. One reason for this has to do with ‘final causes’. 
Behaviour cannot really be affected by anything which fol- 
lows it, but if a ‘consequence’ is immediate, it may over- 
lap the behaviour. A second reason has to do with the 
functional relation between behaviour and its conse- 
quences. The contingencies of survival could not gen- 
erate a process of conditioning which took into account 
how behaviour produced its consequences. The only use- 
ful relation was temporal: a process could evolve in 
which a reinforcer strengthened any behaviour it fol- 
lowed. But the process was important only if it strength- 
ened behaviour which actually produced results. Hence, 
the importance of the fact that any change that follows 
closely upon a response is most likely to have been pro- 

1 20 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

duced by it. A third reason, related to the second but of a 
more practical nature, is that the reinforcing effect of any 
deferred consequence can be usurped, so to speak, by in- 
tervening behaviour, which is reinforced even though it 
has had no part in the production of the reinforcing 

The process of operant conditioning is committed to 
immediate effects, but remote consequences may be im- 
portant, and the individual gains if he can be brought 
under their control. The gap can be bridged with a series 
of ‘conditioned reinforcers’, of which we have already 
considered an example. A person who has frequently 
escaped from rain by moving under shelter eventually 
avoids rain by moving before rain falls. Stimuli which 
frequently precede rain become negative reinforcers (we 
call them the sign or threat of rain). They are more aver- 
sive when a person is not under shelter, and by moving 
under shelter he escapes from them and avoids getting 
wet. The effective consequence is not that he does not get 
wet when rain eventually falls but that a conditioned 
aversive stimulus is immediately reduced. 

The mediation of a remote consequence is more easily 
examined when the reinforcers are positive. Take, forex- 
ample, a bit of ‘palaeobehaviour’ called banking a fire. 
The practice of raking ashes over hot coals at night so 
that a live coal may be found in the morning to start 
another fire must have been very important when it was 
not easy to start a fire in any other way. How could it 
have been learned? (It is, of course, no explanation to say 
that someone ‘got the idea’ of banking a fire, since we 
should have to pursue a similar line to explain the idea.) 
The live coal found in the morning could scarcely rein- 
force the behaviour of raking ashes the night before, but 
the temporal gap could be bridged by a series of condi- 

Values i2i 

tioned reinforcers. It is easy to learn to start a new fire 
from an old one which is not yet quite out, and if a fire 
has seemed to be out for some time, it should be easy to 
learn to dig into the ashes to find an ember. A deep pile 
of ashes would then become a conditioned reinforcer - 
the occasion upon which one may dig and find an ember. 
Raking ashes into a pile would then be automatically 
reinforced. The time span could at first have been very 
short - a fire was raked into a condition in which it was 
found shortly afterwards - but as banking became a prac- 
tice, the temporal aspects of the contingencies could have 

Like all accounts of the origins of palaeobehaviour, 
this is highly speculative, but it may serve to make a 
point. The contingencies under which people learned to 
bank fires must have been extremely rare. We must ap- 
peal for plausibility to the fact that there were hundreds 
of thousands of years during which they might have oc- 
curred. But once the behaviour of banking a fire, or any 
part of it, had been acquired by one person, others could 
acquire it much more easily, and there was no further 
need for accidental contingencies. 

One advantage in being a social animal is that one 
need not discover practices for oneself. The parent teaches 
his child, as the craftsman teaches his apprentice, because 
he gains a useful helper, but in the process the child and 
the apprentice acquire useful behaviour which they 
would very probably not have acquired under non-social 
contingencies. Probably no one plants in the spring sim- 
ply because he then harvests in the fall. Planting would 
not be adaptive or ‘reasonable’ if there were no connec- 
tion with a harvest, but one plants in the spring because 
of more immediate contingencies, most of them arranged 
by the social environment. The harvest has at best the 
effect of maintaining a series of conditioned reinforcers. 

1 32 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

An important repertoire, necessarily acquired from 
others, is verbal. Verbal behaviour presumably arose 
under contingencies involving practical social inter- 
actions, but the individual who becomes both a speaker 
and a listener is in possession of a repertoire of extra- 
ordinary scope and power, which he may use by himself. 
Parts of that repertoire are concerned with self-know- 
ledge and self-control which, as we shall see in Chapter 9 , 
are .social products even though they are usually mis- 
represented as intensely individual and private things. 

Still another advantage is that the individual is, after 
all, one of the ‘others’ who exert control and who do so 
for their own benefit. Organized agencies are often justi- 
fied by pointing to certain general values. The individual 
under a government enjoys a certain measure of order 
and security. An economic system justifies itself by point- 
ing to the wealth it produces, and an educational estab- 
lishment to skills and knowledge. 

Without a social environment, a person remains essen- 
tially feral, like those children said to have been raised by 
wolves or to have been able to fend for themselves from 
an early age in a beneficent climate. A man who has been 
alone since birth will have no verbal behaviour, will not 
be aware of himself as a person, will possess no techniques 
of self-management, and with respect to the world 
around him will have only those meagre skills which can 
be acquired in one short lifetime from non-social contin- 
gencies. In Dante’s hell, he will suffer the special tortures 
of those who ‘lived without blame and without praise’, 
like the ‘angels who were for themselves’. To be for 
oneself is to be almost nothing. 

The great individualists so often cited to show the 
value of personal freedom have owed their successes to 
earlier social environments. The involuntary individual- 
ism of a Robinson Crusoe and the voluntary individual- 

Values 1x3 

ism of a Henry David Thoreau show obvious debts to 
society. If Crusoe had reached the island as a baby, and if 
Thoreau had grown up unattended on the shores of 
Walden Pond, their stories would have been different. 
We must all begin as babies, and no degree of self-deter- 
mination, self-sufficiency, or self-reliance will make us in- 
dividuals in any sense beyond that of single members of 
the human species. Rousseau’s great principle - that 
‘nature has made man happy and good, but that society 
depraves him and makes him miserable’ - was wrong, and 
it is ironic that in complaining that his book £mile was 
so little understood, Rousseau describes it as a ‘treatise on 
man’s original goodness intended to show how vice and 
error, foreign to his nature, introduce themselves from 
without and insensibly change him’, because the book is 
actually one of the great practical treatises on how 
human behaviour can be changed. 

Even those who stand out as revolutionaries are almost 
wholly the conventional products of the systems they 
overthrow. They speak the language, use the logic and 
science, observe many of the ethical and legal principles, 
and employ the practical skills and knowledge which 
society has given them. A small part of their behaviour 
may be exceptional, possibly dramatically so, and we 
shall have to look for exceptional reasons in their idio- 
syncratic histories. (To attribute their original contribu- 
tions to their miracle-working character as autonomous 
men is, of course, no explanation at all.) 

These, then, are some of the gains to be credited to the 
control exerted by others in addition to the goods used 
in that control. The remoter gains are relevant to any 
evaluation of the justice or fairness of the exchange be- 
tween the individual and his social environment. No 
reasonable balance can be achieved as long as the remoter 
gains are neglected by a thoroughgoing individualism or 

124 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

libertarianism, or as long as the balance is thrown as 
violently in the other direction by an exploitative system. 
Presumably, there is an optimal state of equilibrium in 
which everyone is maximally reinforced. But to say this is 
to introduce another kind of value. Why should anyone be 
concerned with justice or fairness, even if these can be 
reduced to good husbandry in the use of reinforcers? The 
questions with which we began obviously cannot be 
answered simply by pointing to what is personally good 
or what is good for others. There is another kind of value 
to which we must now turn. 


The struggle for freedom and dignity has been formu- 
lated as a defence of autonomous man rather than as a 
revision of the contingencies of reinforcement under 
which people live. A technology of behaviour is available 
which would more successfully reduce the aversive conse- 
quences of behaviour, proximate or deferred, and maxi- 
mize the achievements of which the human organism is 
capable, but the defenders of freedom oppose its use. The 
opposition may raise certain questions concerning ‘val- 
ues’. Who is to decide what is good for man? How will a 
more effective technology be used? By whom and to what 
end? These are really questions about reinforcers. Some 
things have become ‘good’ during the evolutionary history 
of the species, and they may be used to induce people to 
behave for ‘the good of others’. When used to excess, they 
may be challenged, and the individual may turn to 
things good only to him. The challenge may be answered 
by intensifying the contingencies which generate behav- 
iour for the good of others or by pointing to previously 
neglected individual gains, such as those conceptualized 
as security, order, health, wealth, or wisdom. Possibly in- 
directly, other people bring the individual under the 

Values 125 

control of some remote consequences of his behaviour, 
and the good of others then redounds to the good of the 
individual. Another kind of good which makes for 
human progress remains to be analysed. 


The Evolution of a Culture 

A child is born a member of the human species, with a 
genetic endowment showing many idiosyncratic features, 
and he begins at once to acquire a repertoire of behav- 
iour under the contingencies of reinforcement to which he 
is exposed as an individual. Most of these contingencies 
are arranged by other people. They are, in fact, what is 
called a culture, although the term is usually defined in 
other ways. Two eminent anthropologists have said, for 
example, that ‘the essential core of culture consists of 
traditional (i.e., historically derived and selected) ideas 
and especially their attached values’. But those who ob- 
serve cultures do not see ideas or values. They see how 
people live, how they raise their children, how they 
gather or cultivate food, what kinds of dwellings they live 
in, what they wear, what games they play, how they treat 
each other, how they govern themselves, and so on. These 
are the customs, the customary behaviours, of a people. 
To explain them we must turn to the contingencies 
which generate them. 

Some contingencies are part of the physical environ- 
ment, but they usually work in combination with social 
contingencies, and the latter are naturally emphasized by 
those who study cultures. The social contingencies, or the 
behaviours they generate, are the ‘ideas’ of a culture; the 
reinforcers that appear in the contingencies are its ‘values’. 

A person is not only exposed to the contingencies that 
constitute a culture, he helps to maintain them, and to 

The Evolution of a Culture 127 

the extent that the contingencies induce him to do so the 
culture is self-perpetuating. The effective reinforcers are 
a matter of observation and cannot be disputed. What a 
given group of people calls good is a fact: it is what 
members of the group find reinforcing as the result of 
their genetic endowment and the natural and social con- 
tingencies to which they have been exposed. Each culture 
has its own set of goods, and what is good in one culture 
may not be good in another. To recognize this is to take 
the position of ‘cultural relativism’. What is good for the 
Trobriand Islander is good for the Trobriand Islander, 
and that is that. Anthropologists have often emphasized 
relativism as a tolerant alternative to missionary zeal in 
converting all cultures to a single set of ethical, govern- 
mental, religious, or economic values. 

A given set of values may explain why a culture func- 
tions, possibly without much change for a long time; but 
no culture is in permanent equilibrium. Contingencies 
necessarily change. The physical environment changes, as 
people move about, as the climate changes, as natural 
resources are consumed or diverted to other uses or made 
unusable, and so on. Social contingencies also change as 
the size of a group or its contact with other groups 
changes, or as controlling agencies grow more or less 
powerful or compete among themselves, or as the control 
exerted leads to countercontrol in the form of escape or 
revolt. The contingencies characteristic of a culture may 
not be adequately transmitted, so that the tendency to be 
reinforced by a given set of values is not maintained. The 
margin of safety in dealing with emergencies may then be 
narrowed or broadened. In short, the culture may grow 
stronger or weaker, and we may foresee that it will sur- 
vive or perish. The survival of a culture then emerges as a 
new value to be taken into account in addition to per- 
sonal and social goods. 

128 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

The fact that a culture may survive or perish suggests a 
kind of evolution, and a parallel with the evolution of 
species has, of course, often been pointed out. It needs to 
be stated carefully. A culture corresponds to a species. We 
describe it by listing many of its practices, as we describe 
a species by listing many of its anatomical features. Two 
or more cultures may share a practice, as two or more 
species may share an anatomical feature. The practices 
of a culture, like the characteristics of a species, are car- 
ried by its members, who transmit them to other mem- 
bers. In general, the greater the number of individuals 
who carry a species or a culture, the greater its chance of 

A culture, like a species, is selected by its adaptation to 
an environment: to the extent that it helps its members 
to get what they need and avoid what is dangerous, it 
helps them to survive and transmit the culture. The two 
kinds of evolution are closely interwoven. The same 
people transmit both a culture and a genetic endowment 
- though in very different ways and for different parts of 
their lives. The capacity to undergo the changes in be- 
haviour which make a culture possible was acquired in 
the evolution of the species, and, reciprocally, the culture 
determines many of the biological characteristics trans- 
mitted. Many current cultures, for example, enable in- 
dividuals to survive and breed who would otherwise fail 
to do so. Not every practice in a culture, or every trait in 
a species, is adaptive, since non-adaptive practices and 
traits may be carried by adaptive ones, and cultures and 
species which are poorly adaptive may survive for a long 

New practices correspond to genetic mutations. A new 
practice may weaken a culture - for example, by leading 
to an unnecessary consumption of resources or by impair- 
ing the health of its members - or strengthen it - for 

The Evolution of a Culture tag 

example, by helping members make a more effective use 
of resources or improve their health. Just as a mutation, a 
change in the structure of a gene, is unrelated to the con- 
tingencies of selection which affect the resulting trait, so 
the origin of a practice need not be related to its survival 
value. The food allergy of a strong leader may give rise to 
a dietary law, a sexual idiosyncrasy to a marriage prac- 
tice, the character of a terrain to a military strategy - and 
the practices may be valuable to the culture for quite 
unrelated reasons. Many cultural practices have, of 
course, been traced to accidents. Early Rome, situated on 
a fertile plain and raided by tribes from the natural fort- 
resses of the surrounding hills, developed laws concern- 
ing property which outlasted the original problem. The 
Egyptians, reconstructing boundaries after the annual 
flooding of the Nile, developed trigonometry, which 
proved valuable for many other reasons. 

The parallel between biological and cultural evolution 
breaks down at the point of transmission. There is nothing 
like the chromosome-gene mechanism in the transmission 
of a cultural practice. Cultural evolution is Lam- 
arckian in the sense that acquired practices are trans- 
mitted. To use a well-worn example, the giraffe does not 
stretch its neck to reach food which is otherwise out of 
reach and then pass on a longer neck to its offspring; 
instead, those giraffes in whom mutation has produced 
longer necks are more likely to reach available food and 
transmit the mutation. But a culture which develops a 
practice permitting it to use otherwise inaccessible 
sources of food can transmit that practice not only to new 
members but to contemporaries or to surviving members 
of an earlier generation. More important, a practice can 
be transmitted through ‘diffusion’ to other cultures - as if 
antelopes, observing the usefulness of the long neck in 
giraffes, were to grow longer necks. Species are isolated 

igo Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

from each other by the non-transmissibility of genetic 
traits, but there is no comparable isolation of cultures. A 
culture is a set of practices, but it is not a set which can- 
not be mixed with other sets. 

We tend to associate a culture with a group of people. 
People are easier to see than their behaviour, and be- 
haviour is easier to see than the contingencies which gen- 
erate it. (Also easy to see, and hence often invoked in 
defining a culture, are the language spoken and the 
things the culture uses, such as tools, weapons, clothing, 
and art forms.) Only to the extent that we identify a cul- 
ture with the people who practise it can we speak of a 
‘member of a culture’, since one cannot be a member of a 
set of contingencies of reinforcement or of a set of arti- 
facts (or, for that matter, of ‘a set of ideas and their asso- 
ciated values’). 

Several kinds of isolation may produce a well-defined 
culture by limiting the transmissibility of practices. Geo- 
graphical isolation is suggested when we speak of a ‘Sam- 
oan’ culture, and racial characteristics which may interfere 
with the exchange of. practices by a ‘Polynesian’ culture. 
A dominant controlling agency or system may hold a set 
of practices together. A democratic culture, for example, 
is a social environment marked by certain governmental 
practices, supported by compatible ethical, religious, 
economic, and educational practices. A Christian, Moslem, 
or Buddhist culture suggests a dominant religious control, 
and a capitalist or socialist culture a dominant set of 
economic practices, each possibly associated with com- 
patible practices of other kinds. A culture defined by a 
government, a religion, or an economic system does not 
require geographical or racial isolation. 

Although the parallel between biological and cultural 
evolution falters at the point of transmissibility, the no- 

The Evolution of a Culture 131 

tion of cultural evolution remains useful. New practices 
arise, and they tend to be transmitted if they contribute 
to the survival of those who practise them. We can in fact 
trace the evolution of a culture more clearly than the 
evolution of a species, since the essential conditions are 
observed rather than inferred and can often be directly 
manipulated. Nevertheless, as we have seen, the role of 
the environment has only begun to be understood, and 
the social environment which is a culture is often hard to 
identify. It is constantly changing, it lacks substance, and 
it is easily confused with the people who maintain the 
environment and are affected by it. 

Since a culture tends to be identified with the people 
who practise it, the principle of evolution has been used 
to justify competition between cultures in the so-called 
‘doctrine of Social Darwinism’. Wars between govern- 
ments, religions, economic systems, races, and classes have 
been defended on the grounds that the survival of the 
fittest is a law of nature - and a nature 'red in tooth and 
claw’. If man has emerged as a master species, why should 
we not look forward to a master subspecies or race? If 
culture has evolved in a similar process, why not a master 
culture? It is true that people do kill each other, and 
often because of practices which seem to define cultures. 
One government or form of government competes with 
another, and the principal means are indicated by their 
military budgets. Religious and economic systems resort 
to military measures. The Nazi ‘solution to the Jewish 
problem’ was a competitive struggle to the death. And in 
competition of that sort the strong do seem to survive. 
But no man survives for long, or any governmental, re- 
ligious, or economic agency for very long. What evolve 
are practices. 

In neither biological nor cultural evolution is com- 

iga Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

petition with other forms the only important condition 
of selection. Both species and cultures ‘compete’ first of all 
with the physical environment. Most of the anatomy and 
physiology of a species is concerned with breathing, feed- 
ing, maintaining a suitable temperature, surviving danger, 
fighting infection, procreating, and so on. Only a small 
part is concerned with, and hence has survived because 
of, success in fighting other members of the same species 
or other species. Similarly, most of the practices which 
compose a culture are concerned with sustenance and 
safety rather than with competition with other cultures, 
and they have been selected by contingencies of survival 
in which successful competition has played a minor role. 

A culture is not the product of a creative ‘group mind’ 
or the expression of a ‘general will’. No society began 
with a social contract, no economic system with the idea 
of barter or wages, no family structure with an insight 
into the advantages of cohabitation. A culture evolves 
when new practices further the survival of those who 
practise them. 

When it has become clear that a culture may survive or 
perish, some of its members may begin to act to promote 
its survival. To the two values which, as we have seen, 
may affect those in a position to make use of a technology 
of behaviour - the personal ‘goods’, which are reinforcing 
because of the human genetic endowment, and the ‘goods 
of others’, which are derived from personal reinforcers - 
we must now add a third, the good of the culture. But 
why is it effective? Why should people in the last third of 
the twentieth century care about what the people in the 
last third of the twenty-first century will look like, how 
they will be governed, how and why they will work pro- 
ductively, what they will know, or what their books, pic- 
tures, and music will be like? No current reinforcers can 

The Evolution of a Culture 1 33 

be derived from anything so remote. Why, then, should a 
person regard the survival of his culture as a ‘good’? 

It is no help, of course, to say that a person acts ‘be- 
cause he feels concern for the survival of his culture’. 
Feelings about any institution depend upon the rein- 
forcers the institution uses. What a person feels about a 
government may range from the most zealous patriotism 
to the most abject fear, depending on the nature of the 
controlling practices. What a person feels about an eco- 
nomic system may range from enthusiastic support to bit- 
ter resentment, depending on the way the system uses 
positive and negative reinforcers. And what a person feels 
about the survival of his culture will depend on the 
measures used by the culture to induce its members to 
work for its survival. The measures explain the support; 
the feelings are by-products. Nor is it any help to say that 
someone suddenly gets the idea of working for the survi- 
val of a culture and transmits it to others. An ‘idea’ is at 
least as difficult to explain as the practices said to express 
it, and much less accessible. But how are we to explain 
the practices? 

Much of what a person does to promote the survival of 
a culture is not ‘intentional’ - that is, it is not done be- 
cause it increases survival value. A culture survives if 
those who carry it survive, and this depends in part upon 
certain genetic susceptibilities to reinforcement, as the re- 
sult of which behaviour making for survival in a given 
environment is shaped and maintained. Practices which 
induce the individual to work for the good of others pre- 
sumably further the survival of others and hence the sur- 
vival of the culture the others carry. 

Institutions may derive effective reinforcers from 
events which will occur only after a person’s death. They 
mediate security, justice, order, knowledge, wealth, 
health, and so on, only part of which the individual will 

134 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

enjoy. In a five-year plan or an austerity programme, 
people are induced to work hard and forgo certain kinds 
of reinforcers in return for the promise of reinforcers to 
be received later, but many of them will not live to enjoy 
the deferred consequences. (Rousseau made this point 
with respect to education: half the children who sub- 
mitted to the punitive educational practices of his time 
never lived to enjoy the supposed benefits.) The honours 
accorded the living hero outlast him as memorials. Ac- 
cumulated wealth outlasts the accumulator, as does 
accumulated knowledge; wealthy men establish founda- 
tions under their names, and science and scholarship 
have their heroes. The Christian notion of life after 
death may have grown out of the social reinforcement of 
those who suffer for their religion while still alive. 
Heaven is portrayed as a collection of positive reinforcers 
and hell as a collection of negative, although they are 
contingent upon behaviour executed before death. (Per- 
sonal survival after death may be a metaphorical adum- 
bration of the evolutionary concept of survival value.) 
The individual is not, of course, directly affected by any 
of these things; he simply gains from conditioned rein- 
forcers used by other members of his culture who do out- 
last him and are directly affected. 

None of this will explain what we might call a pure 
concern for the survival of a culture, but we do not really 
need an explanation. Just as we do not need to explain 
the origin of a genetic mutation in order to account for 
its effect in natural selection, so we do not need to ex- 
plain the origin of a cultural practice in order to account 
for its contribution to the survival of a culture. The 
simple fact is that a culture which for any reason induces 
its members to work for its survival, or for the survival of 
some of its practices, is more likely to survive. Survival is 
the only value according to which a culture is eventually 

The Evolution of a Culture 135 

to be judged, and any practice that furthers survival has 
survival value by definition. 

If it is not very satisfactory to say that any culture 
which induces its members to work for its survival for any 
reason is therefore more likely to survive and perpetuate 
the practice, we must remember that there is very little to 
explain. Cultures seldom generate a pure concern for 
their survival - a concern completely free from the jingo- 
istic trappings, the racial features, the geographical 
locations, or the institutionalized practices with which cul- 
tures tend to be identified. 

When the goods of others are challenged, especially the 
goods of organized others, it is not easy to answer by 
pointing to deferred advantages. Thus, a government is 
challenged when its citizens refuse to pay taxes, serve in 
the armed forces, participate in elections, and so on, and 
it may meet the challenge either by strengthening its con- 
tingencies or by bringing deferred gains to bear on the 
behaviour at issue. But how can it answer the question: 
‘Why should I care whether my government, or my form 
of government, survives long after my death?’ Similarly, a 
religious organization is challenged when its communi- 
cants do not go to church, contribute to its support, take 
political action in its interests, and so on, and it may 
meet the challenge by strengthening its contingencies or 
pointing to deferred gains. But what is its answer to the 
question: ‘Why should I work for the long-term survival 
of my religion?’ An economic system is challenged when 
people. do not work productively, and it may respond by 
sharpening its contingencies or pointing to deferred ad- 
vantages. But what is its answer to the question: ‘Why 
should I be concerned about the survival of a particular 
kind of economic system?’ The only honest answer to 
that kind of question seems to be this : ‘There is no good 
reason why you should be concerned, but if your culture 

1 36 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

has not convinced you that there is, so much the worse for 
your culture.’ 

It is even more difficult to explain any action designed 
to strengthen a single culture for all mankind. A Pax 
Romana or Americana, a world made safe for democracy, 
world communism, or a ‘catholic’ church commands the 
support of strong institutions, but a ‘pure’ world culture 
does not. It is not likely to evolve from successful com- 
petition between religious, governmental, or economic 
agencies. We can nevertheless point to many reasons why 
people should now be concerned for the good of all man- 
kind. The great problems of the world today are all 
global. Overpopulation, the depletion of resources, the 
pollution of the environment, and the possibility of a 
nuclear holocaust - these are the not-so-remote conse- 
quences of present courses of action. But pointing to con- 
sequences is not enough. We must arrange contingencies 
under which consequences have an effect. How can the 
cultures of the world bring these terrifying possibilities to 
bear on the behaviour of their members? 

The process of cultural evolution would not come to 
an end, of course, if there were only one culture, as bio- 
logical evolution would not come to an end if there were 
only one major species - presumably man. Some import- 
ant conditions of selection would be changed and others 
eliminated, but mutations would still occur and undergo 
selection, and new practices would continue to evolve. 
There would be no reason to speak of a culture. It would 
be clear that we were dealing only with practices, just as 
in a single species we should be dealing only with traits. 

The evolution of a culture raises certain questions 
about so-called ‘values’ which have not been fully 
answered. Is the evolution of a culture 'progress’ ? What is 
its goal? Is the goal a kind of consequence quite different 

The Evolution of a Culture 137 

from the consequences, real or spurious, which induce in- 
dividuals to work for the survival of their culture? 

A structural analysis may seem to avoid these ques- 
tions. If we confine ourselves simply to what people do, 
then a culture seems to evolve simply by passing through 
a sequence of stages. Though a culture may skip a stage, 
some kind of characteristic order may be demonstrated. 
The structuralist looks for an explanation of why one 
stage follows another in the pattern of the sequence. 
Technically speaking, he tries to account for a dependent 
variable without relating it to any independent vari- 
ables. The fact that evolution occurs in time suggests, 
however, that time may be a useful independent variable. 
As Leslie White has put it: 'Evolution may be defined as 
a temporal sequence of forms: one form grows out of 
another; culture advances from one stage to another. In 
this process, time is as integral a factor as change of form.’ 

A directed change in time is often spoken of as ‘develop- 
ment’. Geologists trace the development of the earth 
through various eras, and paleontologists trace the de- 
velopment of species. Psychologists follow the develop- 
ment of, say, psychosexual adjustment. The development 
of a culture may be followed in its use of materials (from 
stone to bronze to iron), in its ways of getting food (from 
gathering to hunting and fishing to cultivation), in its use 
of economic power (from feudalism to commercialism to 
industrialism to socialism), and so on. 

Facts of this sort are useful, but change occurs not be- 
cause of the passage of time, but because of what happens 
while time is passing. The Cretaceous period in geology 
did not appear at a given stage in the development of the 
earth because of a predetermined fixed sequence but be- 
cause a preceding condition of the earth led to certain 
changes. The horse’s hoof did not develop because time 
passed but because certain mutations were selected when 

1 38 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

they favoured survival in the environment in which the 
horse was living. The size of a child’s vocabulary or the 
grammatical forms he uses are not a function of develop- 
mental age but of the verbal contingencies which have 
prevailed in the community to which he has been ex- 
posed. A child develops the ‘concept of inertia’ at a given 
age only because of the social and non-social contingen- 
cies of reinforcement which have generated the behav- 
iour said to show the possession of the concept. The 
contingencies ‘develop’ as much as the behaviour they 
generate. If developmental stages follow one another in a 
fixed order, it is because one stage builds the conditions 
responsible for the next. A child must walk before he can 
run or jump; he must have a rudimentary vocabulary 
before he can ‘put words into grammatical patterns’; he 
must possess simple behaviours before he can acquire the 
behaviour said to show the possession of ‘complex con- 

The same issues arise in the development of a culture. 
Food-gathering practices naturally precede agriculture, 
not because of an essential pattern but because people 
must stay alive somehow (as by gathering food) until 
agricultural practices can be acquired. The necessary 
order in the historical determinism of Karl Marx is in the 
contingencies. Class struggle is a crude way of represent- 
ing the ways in which men control each other. The rise of 
the power of merchants and the decline of feudalism and 
the later appearance of an industrial age (possibly to be 
followed by socialism or a welfare state) depend largely 
upon changes in economic contingencies of reinforce- 

A pure developmentalism, contenting itself with pat- 
terns of sequential change in structure, misses the chance 
to explain behaviour in terms of genetic and environ- 
mental histories. It also misses the chance to change the 

The Evolution of a Culture 1 39 

order in which stages succeed one another or the speed 
with which they do so. In a standard environment a child 
may acquire concepts in a standard order, but the order 
is determined by contingencies that may be changed. 
Similarly, a culture may develop through a sequence of 
stages as contingencies develop, but a different order of 
contingencies can be designed. We cannot change the age 
of the earth or of the child, but in the case of the child we 
need not wait for time to pass in order to change the' 
things that happen in time. 

The concept of development becomes entangled with 
so-called ‘values’ when directed change is regarded as 
growth. A growing apple passes through a sequence of 
stages, and one stage is best. We reject green and rotten 
apples; only the ripe apple is good. By analogy we speak 
of a mature person and a mature culture. The farmer 
works to bring his crops safely to maturity, and parents, 
teachers, and therapists strive to produce a mature per- 
son. Changing in the direction of maturity is often val- 
ued as ‘becoming’. If change is interrupted, we speak of 
arrested or fixated development, which we try to correct. 
When the change is slow, we speak of retardation and 
work for acceleration. But these highly prized values be- 
come meaningless (or worse) when maturity is reached. 
No one is anxious to ‘become’ senile; the mature person 
would be pleased to have his development arrested or 
fixated; from that point on he would not mind being a 

It is a mistake to suppose that all change or develop- 
ment is growth. The present condition of the earth’s sur- 
face is not mature or immature; the horse has not, so far 
as we know, reached some final and presumably optimal 
stage in evolutionary development. If a child’s language 
seems to grow like an embryo, it is only because the en- 
vironmental contingencies have been neglected. The 

140 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

feral child has no language, not because his isolation has 
interfered with some growth process, but because he has 
not been exposed to a verbal community. We have no 
reason to call any culture mature in the sense that fur- 
ther growth is unlikely or that it would necessarily be a 
kind of deterioration. We call some cultures underde- 
veloped or immature in contrast with others we call ‘ad- 
vanced’, but it is a crude form of jingoism to imply that 
any government, religion, or economic system is mature. 

The main objection to the metaphor of growth, in con- 
sidering either the development of an individual or the 
evolution of a culture, is that it emphasizes a terminal 
state which does not have a function. We say that an 
organism grows towards maturity or in order to reach 
maturity. Maturity becomes a goal, and progress becomes 
movement towards a goal. A goal is literally a terminus r- 
the end of something such as a foot race. It has no effect 
on the race except to bring it to an end. The word is used 
in this relatively empty sense when we say that the goal of 
life is death or that the goal of evolution is to fill the 
earth with life. Death is no doubt the end of life, and a 
full world may be the end of evolution, but these termi- 
nal conditions have no bearing on the processes through 
which they are reached. We do not live in order to die, 
and evolution does not proceed in order to fill the earth 
with life. 

The goal as the end of a race is easily confused with 
winning, hence with the reasons for running it or the 
purpose of the runner. Early students of learning used 
mazes and other devices in which a goal seemed to show 
the position of a reinforcer with respect to the behaviour 
of which it was a consequence; the organism went to- 
wards a goal. But the important relation is temporal, not 
spatial. Behaviour is followed by reinforcement; it does 
not pursue and overtake it. We explain the development 

The Evolution of a Culture 141 

of a species and of the behaviour of a member of the 
species by pointing to the selective action of contin- 
gencies of survival and contingencies of reinforcement. 
Both the species and the behaviour of the individual de- 
velop when they are shaped and maintained by their 
effects on the world around them. That is the only role of 
the future. 

But this does not mean that there is no direction. 
Many efforts have been made to characterize evolution as 
directed change - for example, as a steady increase in 
complexity of structure, in sensitivity to stimulation, or 
in the effective utilization of energy. There is another 
important possibility: both hinds of evolution make or- 
ganisms more sensitive to the consequences of their ac- 
tion. Organisms most likely to be changed by certain 
kinds of consequences have presumably had an advan- 
tage, and a culture brings the individual under the con- 
trol of remote consequences which could have played no 
part in the physical evolution of the species. A remote 
personal good becomes effective when a person is con- 
trolled for the good of others, and the culture which in- 
duces some of its members to work for its survival brings 
an even more remote consequence to bear. 

The task of the cultural designer is to accelerate the 
development of practices which bring the remote conse- 
quences of behaviour into play. We turn now to some of 
the problems he faces. 

The social environment is what is called a culture. It 
shapes and maintains the behaviour of those who live in 
it. A given culture evolves as new practices arise, possibly 
for irrelevant reasons, and are selected by their contribu- 
tion to the strength of the culture as it ‘competes’ with 
the physical environment and with other cultures. A 

14s Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

major step is the emergence of practices which induce 
members to work for the survival of their culture. Such 
practices cannot be traced to personal goods, even when 
used for the good of others, since the survival of a culture 
beyond the lifetime of the individual cannot serve as a 
source of conditioned reinforcers. Other people may sur- 
vive the person they induce to act for their good, and the 
culture whose survival is at issue is often identified with 
them or their organizations, but the evolution of a cul- 
ture introduces an additional kind of good or value. A 
culture which for any reason induces its members to work 
for its survival is more likely to survive. It is a matter of 
the good of the culture, not of the individual. Explicit 
design promotes that good by accelerating the evolution- 
ary process, and since a science and a technology of be- 
haviour make for better design, they are important 
‘mutations’ in the evolution of a culture. If there is any 
purpose or direction in the evolution of a culture, it has 
to do with bringing people under the control of more 
and more of the consequences of their behaviour. 


The Design of a Culture 

Many people are engaged in the design and redesign of 
cultural practices. They make changes in the things they 
use and the way they use them. They invent better 
mousetraps and computers and discover better ways of 
raising children, paying wages, collecting taxes, and help- 
ing people with problems. We need not spend much time 
on the word ‘better’; it is simply the comparative of 
‘good’, and goods are reinforcers. One camera is called 
better than another because of what happens when it 
is used. A manufacturer induces potential buyers to 
‘value’ his camera by guaranteeing that it will perform 
in satisfactory ways, by quoting what users have said 
about its performance, and so on. It is, of course, much 
harder to call one culture better than another, in 
part because more consequences need to be taken into 

No one knows the best way of raising children, paying 
workers, maintaining law and order, teaching, or making 
people creative, but it is possible to propose better ways 
than we now have and to support them by predicting and 
eventually demonstrating more reinforcing results. This 
has been done in the past with the help of personal ex- 
perience and folk wisdom, but a scientific analysis of 
human behaviour is obviously relevant. It helps in two 
ways: it defines what is to be done and suggests ways of 
doing it. How badly it is needed is indicated by a recent 
discussion in a news weekly about what is wrong with 

144 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

America. The problem was described as ‘a disturbed psy- 
chic condition of the young’, ‘a recession of the spirit’, ‘a 
psychic downturn’, and ‘a spiritual crisis’, which were at- 
tributed to ‘anxiety’, ‘uncertainty’, ‘malaise’, ‘alienation’, 
‘generalized despair’, and several other moods and states 
of mind, all interacting in the familiar intrapsychic pat- 
tern (lack of social assurance being said to lead to aliena- 
tion, for example, and frustration to aggression). Most 
readers probably knew what the writer was talking about 
and may have felt that he was saying something useful, 
but the passage - which is not exceptional - has two 
characteristic defects which explain our failure to deal 
adequately with cultural problems: the troublesome be- 
haviour is not actually described, and nothing that can 
be done to change it is mentioned. 

Consider a young man whose world has suddenly 
changed. He has graduated from college and is going to 
work, let us say, or has been inducted into the armed 
services. Most of the behaviour he has acquired up to this 
point proves useless in his new environment. The be- 
haviour he actually exhibits can be described, and the 
description translated, as follows: he lacks assurance or 
feels insecure or is unsure of himself ( his behaviour is 
weak and inappropriate ); he is dissatisfied or discouraged 
(he is seldom reinforced, and as a result his behaviour 
undergoes extinction ); he is frustrated (extinction is ac- 
companied by emotional responses); he feels uneasy or 
anxious (his behaviour frequently has unavoidable aver- 
sive consequences which have emotional effects); there is 
nothing he wants to do or enjoys doing well, he has no 
feeling of craftsmanship, no sense of leading a purposeful 
life, no sense of accomplishment (he is rarely reinforced 
for doing anything); he feels guilty or ashamed (he has 
previously been punished for idleness or failure, which 
now evokes emotional responses); he is disappointed -in 

The Design of a Culture 145 

himself or disgusted with himself (he is no longer rein- 
forced by the admiration of others, and the extinction 
which follows has emotional effects); he becomes hypo- 
chondriacal (he concludes that he is ill) or neurotic (he 
engages in a variety of ineffective modes of escape); and 
he experiences an identity crisis (he does not recognize 
the person he once called ‘I’). 

The italicized paraphrases are too brief to be precise, 
but they suggest the possibility of an alternative account, 
which alone suggests effective action. To the young man 
himself the important things are no doubt the various 
states of his body. They are salient stimuli, and he has 
learned to use them in traditional ways to explain his 
behaviour to himself and others. What he tells us about 
his feelings may permit us to make some informed guesses 
about what is wrong with the contingencies, but we must 
go directly to the contingencies if we want to be sure, and 
it is the contingencies which must be changed if his be- 
haviour is to be changed. 

Feelings and states of mind still dominate discussions 
of human behaviour for many reasons. For one thing, 
they have long obscured the alternatives that might re- 
place them; it is hard to see behaviour as such without 
reading into it many of the things it is said to express. 
The selective action of the environment has remained 
obscure because of its nature. Nothing less than an experi- 
mental analysis was needed to discover the significance 
of contingencies of reinforcement, and contingencies 
remain almost out of reach of casual observation. 
This is easy to demonstrate. The contingencies arranged 
in an operant laboratory are often complex, but they are 
still simpler than many contingencies in the world at 
large. Yet one who is unfamiliar with laboratory practice 
will find it hard to see what is going on in an experi- 
mental space. He sees an organism behaving in a few 

146 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

simple ways, in the presence of various stimuli that 
change from time to time, and he may see an occasional 
reinforcing event - for example, the appearance of food 
which the organism eats. The facts are all clear, but 
casual observation alone will seldom reveal the contin- 
gencies. Our observer will not be able to explain why the 
organism behaves as it does. And if he cannot understand 
what he sees in a simplified laboratory environment, how 
can we expect him to make sense of what is happening in 
daily life? 

The experimenter has, of course, additional informa- 
tion. He knows something about the genetics of his 
subject, at least to the extent that he has studied other sub- 
jects of the same strain. He knows something about past 
history - about earlier contingencies to which the organ- 
ism has been exposed, its schedule of deprivation, and so 
on. But our observer did not fail because he lacked these 
additional facts; he failed because he could not see what 
was happening before his eyes. In an experiment on 
operant behaviour the important data are changes in the 
probability of a response, usually observed as changes in 
rate, but it is difficult if not impossible to follow a change 
in rate through casual observation. We are not well 
equipped to see changes taking place over fairly long 
periods of time. The experimenter can see such changes 
in his records. What seems like rather sporadic respond- 
ing may prove to be a stage in an orderly process. The 
experimenter also knows about the prevailing contin- 
gencies (he has, in fact, constructed the apparatus that ar- 
ranges them). If our casual observer spent enough time, 
he might discover some of the contingencies, but he 
would do so only if he knew what to look for. Until con- 
tingencies had been arranged and their effects studied in 
the laboratory, little effort was made to find them 
in daily life. This is the sense in which, as we noted 

The Design of a Culture 147 

in Chapter i, an experimental analysis makes possible an 
effective interpretation of human behaviour. It permits 
us to neglect irrelevant details, no matter how dramatic, 
and to emphasize features which, without the help of the 
analysis, would be dismissed as trivial. 

(The reader may have been inclined to dismiss fre- 
quent references to contingencies of reinforcement as a 
new fashion in technical jargon, but it is not simply a 
matter of talking about old things in new ways. Contin- 
gencies are ubiquitous; they cover the classical fields of 
intention and purpose, but in a much more useful way, 
and they provide alternative formulations of so-called 
‘mental processes’. Many details have never been dealt 
with before, and no traditional terms are available in 
discussing them. The full significance of the concept is no 
doubt still far from adequately recognized.) 

Beyond interpretation lies practical action. Contingen- 
cies are accessible, and as we come to understand the 
relations between behaviour and the environment, we dis- 
cover new ways of changing behaviour. The outlines of a 
technology are already clear. An assignment is stated as 
behaviour to be produced or modified, and relevant con- 
tingencies are then arranged. A programmed sequence of 
contingencies may be needed. The technology has been 
most successful where behaviour can be fairly easily 
specified and where appropriate contingencies can be 
constructed - for example, in child care, schools, and the 
management of retardates and institutionalized psychotics. 
The same principles are being applied, however, in 
the preparation of instructional materials at all educa- 
tional levels, in psychotherapy beyond simple manage- 
ment, in rehabilitation, in industrial management, in 
urban design, and in many other fields of human behav- 
iour. There are many varieties of ‘behaviour modifica- 
tion’ and many different formulations, but they all agree 

148 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

on the essential point: behaviour can be changed by 
changing the conditions of which it is a function. 

Such a technology is ethically neutral. It can be used 
by villain or saint. There is nothing in a methodology 
which determines the values governing its use. We are 
concerned here, however, not merely with practices, but 
with the design of a whole culture, and the survival of a 
culture then emerges as a special kind of value. A person 
may design a better way of raising children primarily to 
escape from children who do not behave well. He may 
solve his problem, for example, by being a martinet. Or 
his new method may promote the good of the children or 
of parents in general. It may demand time and effort and 
the sacrifice of personal reinforcers, but he will propose 
and use it if he has been sufficiently induced to work for 
the good of others. If he is strongly reinforced when he 
sees other people enjoying themselves, for example, he 
will design an environment in which children are happy. 
If his culture has induced him to take an interest in its 
survival, however, he may study the contribution which 
people make to their culture as a result of their early 
history, and he may design a better method in order to 
increase that contribution. Those who adopt the method 
may suffer some loss in personal reinforcers. 

The same three kinds of values may be detected in the 
design of other cultural practices. The classroom teacher 
may devise new ways of teaching which make life easier 
for him, or which please his students (who in turn rein- 
force him), or which make it likely that his students will 
contribute as much as possible to their culture. The in- 
dustrialist may design a wage system that maximizes his 
profits, or works for the good of his employees, or most 
effectively produces the goods a culture needs, with a 
minimal consumption of resources and minimal pollu- 

The Design of a Culture 149 

Cion. A party in power may act primarily to keep its 
power, or to reinforce those it governs (who in return 
keep it in power), or to promote the state, as by institut- 
ing a programme of austerity which may cost the party 
both power and support. 

The same three levels may be detected in the design of 
a culture as a whole. If the designer is an individualist, 
he will design a world in which he will be under minimal 
control and will accept his own personal goods as the 
ultimate values. If he has been exposed to an appropriate 
social environment, he will design for the good of others, 
possibly with a loss of personal goods. If he is concerned 
primarily with survival value, he will design a culture 
with an eye to whether it will work. 

When a culture induces some of its members to work 
for its survival, what are they to do? They will need to 
foresee some of the difficulties the culture will encounter. 
These usually lie far in the future, and details are not 
always clear. Apocalyptic visions have had a long history, 
but only recently has much attention been paid to the 
prediction of the future. There is nothing to be done 
about completely unpredictable difficulties, but we may 
foresee some trouble by extrapolating current trends. It 
may be enough simply to observe a steady increase in the 
number of people on the earth, in the size and location of 
nuclear stockpiles, or in the pollution of the environment 
and the depletion of natural resources; we may then 
change practices to induce people to have fewer children, 
spend less on nuclear weapons, stop polluting the en- 
vironment, and consume resources at a lower rate, respec- 

We do not need to predict the future to see some of the 
ways in which the strength of a culture depends upon the 
behaviour of its members. A culture that maintains civil 

150 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

order and defends itself against attack frees its members 
from certain kinds of threats and presumably provides 
more time and energy for other things (particularly if 
order and security are not maintained by force). A cul- 
ture needs various goods for its survival, and its strength 
must depend in part on the economic contingencies 
which maintain enterprising and productive labour, on 
the availability of the tools of production, and on the 
development and conservation of resources. A culture is 
presumably stronger if it induces its members to main- 
tain a safe and healthful environment, to provide medical 
care, and to maintain a population density appro- 
priate to its resources and space. A culture must be trans- 
mitted from generation to generation, and its strength 
will presumably depend on what and how much its new 
members learn, either through informal instructional 
contingencies or in educational institutions. A culture 
needs the support of its members, and it must provide for 
the pursuit and achievement of happiness if it is to prevent 
disaffection or defection. A culture must be reason- 
ably stable, but it must also change, and it will presum- 
ably be strongest if it can avoid excessive respect for 
tradition and fear of novelty on the one hand and excess- 
ively rapid change on the other. Lastly, a culture will 
have a special measure of survival value if it encourages 
its members to examine its practices and to experiment 
with new ones. 

A culture is very much like the experimental space 
used in the analysis of behaviour. Both are sets of contin- 
gencies of reinforcement. A child is born into a culture as 
an organism is placed in an experimental space. Design- 
ing a culture is like designing an experiment; contin- 
gencies are arranged and effects noted. In an experiment 
we are interested in what happens, in designing a culture 

The Design of a Culture 151 

with whether it will work. This is the difference between 
science and technology. 

A collection of cultural designs is to be found in the 
utopian literature. Writers have described their versions 
of the good life and suggested ways of achieving them. 
Plato, in The Republic, chose a political solution; Saint 
Augustine, in The City of God, a religious one. Thomas 
More and Francis Bacon, both lawyers, turned to law and 
order, and the Rousseauean utopists of the eighteenth 
century, to a supposed natural goodness in man. The 
nineteenth century looked for economic solutions, and 
the twentieth century saw the rise of what may be called 
behavioural utopias in which a full range of social con- 
tingencies began to be discussed (often satirically). 

Utopian writers have been at pains to simplify their 
assignment. A utopian community is usually composed of 
a relatively small number of people living together in 
one place and in stable contact with each other. They can 
practise an informal ethical control and minimize the 
role of organized agencies. They can learn from each 
other rather than from the specialists called teachers. 
They can be kept from behaving badly towards each 
other through censure rather than the specialized pun- 
ishments of a legal system. They can produce and ex- 
change goods without specifying values in terms of 
money. They can help those who have become ill, infirm, 
disturbed, or aged with a minimum of institutional care. 
Troublesome contacts with other cultures are avoided 
through geographical isolation (utopias tend to be loca- 
ted on islands or surrounded by high mountains), and 
the transition to a new culture is facilitated by some 
formalized break with the past, such as a ritual of rebirth 
(utopias are often set in the distant future so that the 
necessary evolution of the culture seems plausible). A 
utopia is a total social environment, and all its parts work 

152 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

together. The home does not conflict with the school or 
the street, religion does not conflict with government, 
and so on. 

Perhaps the most important feature of the utopian de- 
sign, however, is that the survival of a community can be 
made important to its members. The small size, the isola- 
tion, the internal coherence - all these give a community 
an identity which makes its success or failure conspic- 
uous. The fundamental question in all utopias is ‘Would 
it really work?’ The literature is worth considering just 
because it emphasizes experimentation. A traditional cul- 
ture has been examined and found wanting, and a new 
version has been set up to be tested and redesigned as 
circumstances dictate. 

The simplification in utopian writing, which is noth- 
ing more than the simplification characteristic of science, 
is seldom feasible in the world at large, and there are 
many other reasons why it is difficult to put an explicit 
design into effect. A large fluid population cannot be 
brought under informal social or ethical control because 
social reinforcers like praise and blame are not exchange- 
able for the personal reinforcers on which they are based. 
Why should anyone be affected by the praise or blame of 
someone he will never see again? Ethical control may 
survive in small groups, but the control of the population 
as a whole must be delegated to specialists - to police, 
priests, owners, teachers, therapists, and so on, with their 
specialized reinforcers and their codified contingencies. 
These are probably already in conflict with each other 
and will almost certainly be in conflict with any new set 
of contingencies. Where it is not too difficult to change 
informal instruction, for example, it is nearly impossible 
to change an educational establishment. It is fairly easy 
to change marriage, divorce, and child-bearing practices 
as the significance for the culture changes, but nearly im- 

The Design of a Culture 153 

possible to change the religious principles which dictate 
such practices. It is easy to change the extent to which 
various kinds of behaviour are accepted as right, but diffi- 
cult to change the laws of a government. The reinforcing 
values of goods are more flexible than the values set by 
economic agencies. The word of authority is more un- 
yielding than the facts of which it speaks. 

It is not surprising that, so far as the real world is con- 
cerned, the word utopian means unworkable. History 
seems to offer support; various utopian designs have been 
proposed for nearly twenty-five years, and most attempts 
to set them up have been ignominious failures. But his- 
torical evidence is always against the probability of any- 
thing new; that is what is meant by history. Scientific 
discoveries and inventions are improbable; that is what is 
meant by discovery and invention. And if planned econ- 
omies, benevolent dictatorships, perfectionistic societies, 
and other utopian ventures have failed, we must remem- 
ber that unplanned, undictated, and unperfected cul- 
tures have failed too. A failure is not always a mistake; it 
may simply be the best one can do under the circum- 
stances. The real mistake is to stop trying. Perhaps we 
cannot now design a successful culture as a whole, but we 
can design better practices in a piecemeal fashion. The 
behavioural processes in the world at large are the same 
as those in a utopian community, and practices have the 
same effects for the same reasons. 

The same advantages are also to be found in emphasiz- 
ing contingencies of reinforcement in lieu of states of 
mind or feelings. It is no doubt a serious problem, for 
example, that students no longer respond in traditional 
ways to educational environments; they drop out of 
school, possibly for long periods of time, they take only 
courses which they enjoy or which seem to have relevance 

154 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

to their problems, they destroy school property and at- 
tack teachers and officials. But we shall not solve this 
problem by ‘cultivating on the part of our public a re- 
spect it does not now have for scholarship as such and for 
the practising scholar and teacher’. (The cultivation of 
respect is a metaphor in the horticultural tradition.) 
What is wrong is the educational environment. We need 
to design contingencies under which students acquire be- 
haviour useful to them and their culture - contingencies 
that do not have troublesome by-products and that gen- 
erate the behaviour said to ‘show respect for learning’. It is 
not difficult to see what is wrong in most educational en- 
vironments, and much has already been done to design 
materials which make learning as easy as possible and to 
construct contingencies, in the classroom and elsewhere, 
which give students powerful reasons for getting an edu- 

A serious problem also arises when young people refuse 
to serve in the armed forces and desert or defect to other 
countries, but we shall not make an appreciable change 
by ‘inspiring greater loyalty or patriotism'. What must be 
changed are the contingencies which induce young 
people to behave in given ways towards their govern- 
ments. Governmental sanctions remain almost entirely 
punitive, and the unfortunate by-products are sufficiently 
indicated by the extent of domestic disorder and inter- 
national conflict. It is a serious problem that we remain 
almost continuously at war with other nations, but we 
shall not get far by attacking ‘the tensions which lead to 
war’, or by appeasing warlike spirits, or by changing the 
minds of men (in which, UNESCO tells us, wars begin). 
What must be changed are the circumstances under 
which men and nations make war. 

We may also be disturbed by the fact that many young 
people work as little as possible, or that workers are not 

The Design of a Culture 155 

very productive and often absent, or that products are 
often of poor quality, but we shall not get far by inspir- 
ing a ‘sense of craftsmanship or pride in one’s work’, or a 
‘sense of the dignity of labour’, or, where crafts and skills 
are a part of the caste mores, by changing ‘the deep emo- 
tional resistance of the caste superego’, as one writer has 
put it. Something is wrong with the contingencies which 
induce men to work industriously and carefully. (Other 
kinds of economic contingencies are wrong too.) 

Walter Lippmann has said that ‘the supreme question 
before mankind’ is how men can save themselves from the 
catastrophe which threatens them, but to answer it we 
must do more than discover how men can ‘make them- 
selves willing and able to save themselves’. We must look 
to the contingencies that induce people to act to increase 
the chances that their cultures will survive. We have the 
physical, biological, and behavioural technologies needed 
‘to save ourselves’; the problem is how to get people to 
use them. It may be that ‘utopia has only to be willed’, 
but what does that mean? What are the principal specifi- 
cations of a culture that will survive because it induces its 
members to work for its survival? 

The application of a science of behaviour to the design 
of a culture is an ambitious proposal, often thought to be 
utopian in the pejorative sense, and some reasons for 
scepticism deserve comment. It is often asserted, for ex- 
ample, that there are fundamental differences between 
the real world and the laboratory in which behaviour 
is analysed. Where the laboratory setting is contrived, 
the real world is natural; where the setting is simple, 
the world is complex; where processes observed in the 
laboratory reveal order, behaviour elsewhere is charac- 
teristically confused. These are real differences, but 
they may not remain so as a science of behaviour ad- 

1 56 Beyond F reedom and Dignity 

vances, and they are often not to be taken seriously even 

The difference between contrived and natural condi- 
tions is not a serious one. It may be natural for a pigeon 
to flick leaves about and find bits of food beneath some of 
them, in the sense that the contingencies are standard 
parts of the environment in which the pigeon evolved. 
The contingencies under which a pigeon pecks an illu- 
minated disk on a wall and food then appears in a dis- 
penser below the disk are clearly unnatural. But although 
the programming equipment in the laboratory is con- 
trived and the arrangement of leaves and seeds natural, 
the schedules according to which behaviour is reinforced 
can be made identical. The natural schedule is the ‘vari- 
able-ratio’ schedule of the laboratory, and we have no 
reason to doubt that behaviour is affected by it in the 
same way under both conditions. When the effects of the 
schedule are studied with programming equipment we 
begin to understand the behaviour observed in nature, 
and as more and more complex contingencies of rein- 
forcement have come to be investigated in the laboratory, 
more and more light has been thrown on the natural con- 

And so with simplification. Every experimental science 
simplifies the conditions under which it works, particu- 
larly in the early stages of an investigation. An analysis of 
behaviour naturally begins with simple organisms behav- 
ing in simple ways in simple settings. When a reasonable 
degree of orderliness appears, the arrangements can be 
made more complex. We move forward only as rapidly as 
our successes permit, and progress often does not seem 
rapid enough. Behaviour is a discouraging field because 
we are in such close contact with it. Early physicists, 
chemists, and biologists enjoyed a kind of natural protec- 
tion against the complexity of their fields; they were un- 

The Design of a Culture 157 

touched by vast ranges of relevant facts. They could 
select a few things for study and dismiss the rest of nature 
either as irrelevant or as obviouly out of reach. If Gilbert 
or Faraday or Maxwell had had even a quick glimpse of 
what is now known about electricity, they would have 
had much more trouble in finding starting points and in 
formulating principles which did not seem ‘oversimpli- 
fied’. Fortunately for them, much of what is now known 
in their fields came to be known as the result of research 
and its technological uses, and it did not need to be con- 
sidered until formulations were well advanced. The be- 
havioural scientist has had no such luck. He is all too 
aware of his own behaviour as part of his subject matter. 
Subtle perceptions, tricks of memory, the vagaries of 
dreams, the apparently intuitive solutions of problems - 
these and many other things about human behaviour in- 
sistently demand attention. It is much more difficult to 
find a starting point and to arrive at formulations which 
do not seem too simple. 

The interpretation of the complex world of human 
affairs in terms of an experimental analysis is no doubt 
often oversimplified. Claims have been exaggerated and 
limitations neglected. But the really great oversimplifica- 
tion is the traditional appeal to states of mind, feelings, 
and other aspects of the autonomous man which a be- 
havioural analysis is replacing. The ease with which 
mentalistic explanations can be invented on the spot is per- 
haps the best gauge of how little attention we should pay 
to them. And the same may be said for traditional prac- 
tices. The technology which has emerged from an experi- 
mental analysis should be evaluated only in comparison 
with what is done in other ways. What, after all, have we 
to show for non-scientific or pre-scientific good judge- 
ment, or common sense, or the insights gained through 
personal experience? It is science or nothing, and the 

158 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

only solution to simplification is to learn how to deal 
with complexities. 

A science of behaviour is not yet ready to solve all our 
problems, but it is a science in progress, and its ultimate 
adequacy cannot now be judged. When critics assert 
that it cannot account for this or that aspect of human 
behaviour, they usually imply that it will never be 
able to do so, but the analysis continues to develop and 
is in fact much further advanced than its critics usually 

The important thing is not so much to know how to 
solve a problem as to know how to look for a solution. 
The scientists who approached President Roosevelt with 
a proposal to build a bomb so powerful that it would end 
the Second World War within a few days could not say 
that they knew how to build it. All they could say was 
that they knew how to go about finding out. The be- 
havioural problems to be solved in the world today are 
no doubt more complex than the practical use of nuclear 
fission, and the basic science by no means as far advanced, 
but we know where to start looking for solutions. 

A proposal to design a culture with the help of a 
scientific analysis often leads to Cassandran prophecies of 
disaster. The culture will not work as planned, and un- 
foreseen consequences may be catastrophic. Proof is seldom 
offered, possibly because history seems to be on the side of 
failure: many plans have gone wrong, and possibly just 
because they were planned. The threat in a designed cul- 
ture, said Mr Krutch, is that the unplanned ‘may never 
erupt again’. But it is hard to justify the trust which is 
placed in accident. It is true that accidents have been 
responsible for almost everything men have achieved to 
date, and they will no doubt continue to contribute to 
human accomplishments, but there is no virtue in an 
accident as such. The unplanned also goes wrong. The 

The Design of a Culture 159 

idiosyncrasies of a jealous ruler who regards any disturb- 
ance as an offence against him may have an accidental 
survival value if law and order are maintained, but the 
military strategies of a paranoid leader are of the same 
provenance and may have an entirely different effect. 
The industry which arises in the unrestrained pursuit of 
happiness may have an accidental survival value when 
war materiel is suddenly needed, but it may also exhaust 
natural resources and pollute the environment. 

If a planned culture necessarily meant uniformity or 
regimentation, it might indeed work against further evo- 
lution. If men were very much alike, they would be less 
likely to hit upon or design new practices, and a culture 
which made people as much alike as possible might slip 
into a standard pattern from which there would be no 
escape. That would be bad design, but if we are looking 
for variety, we should not fall back upon accident. Many 
accidental cultures have been marked by uniformity and 
regimentation. The exigencies of administration in gov- 
ernmental, religious, and economic systems breed uni- 
formity, because it simplifies the problem of control. 
Traditional educational establishments specify what the 
student is to learn at what age and administer tests to 
make sure that the specifications are met. The codes of 
governments and religions are usually quite explicit and 
allow little room for diversity or change. The only hope 
is planned diversification, in which the importance of 
variety is recognized. The breeding of plants and animals 
moves towards uniformity when uniformity is important 
(as in simplifying agriculture or animal husbandry), but 
it also requires planned diversity. 

Planning does not prevent useful accidents. For many 
thousands of years people used fibres (such as cotton, 
wool, or silk) from sources which were accidental in the 
sense that they were the products of contingencies of sur- 

160 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

vival not closely related to the contingencies which made 
them useful to men. Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, 
are explicitly designed; their usefulness is taken into 
account. But the production of synthetic fibres does not 
make the evolution of a new kind of cotton, wool, or silk 
any the less likely. Accidents still occur, and indeed, are 
furthered by those investigating new possibilities. It 
might be said that science maximizes accidents. The 
physicist does not confine himself to the temperatures 
which occur accidentally in the world at large: he pro- 
duces a continuous series of temperatures over a very 
wide range. The behavioural scientist does not confine 
himself to the schedules of reinforcement which happen 
to occur in nature: he constructs a great variety of 
schedules, some of which might never arise by accident. 
There is no virtue in the accidental nature of an acci- 
dent. A culture evolves as new practices appear and 
undergo selection, and we cannot wait for them to turn 
up by chance. 

Another kind of opposition to a new cultural design 
can be put this way: ‘I wouldn’t like it’, or in translation, 
‘The culture would be aversive and would not reinforce 
me in the manner to which I am accustomed.’ The word re- 
form is in bad odour, for it is usually associated with the 
destruction of reinforcers - ‘the Puritans have cut down 
the maypoles and the hobbyhorse is forgot’ - but the de- 
sign of a new culture is necessarily a kind of re-form, and 
it almost necessarily means a change of reinforcers. To 
eliminate a threat, for example, is to eliminate the thrill 
of escape; in a better world no one will ‘pluck this flower, 
safety out of this nettle, danger’. The reinforcing 
value of rest, relaxation, and leisure is necessarily weak- 
ened as labour is made less compulsive. A world in which 
there is no need for moral struggle will offer none of the 

The Design of a Culture 161 

reinforcement of a successful outcome. No convert to a 
religion will enjoy Cardinal Newman's release from ‘the 
stress of a great anxiety’. Art and literature will no'longer 
be based on such contingencies. We shall not only have 
no reason to admire people who endure suffering, face 
danger, or struggle to be good, it is possible that we shall 
have little interest in pictures or books about them. The 
art and literature of a new culture will be about other 

These are prodigious changes, and we naturally give 
them careful consideration. The problem is to design a 
world which will be liked not by people as they now are 
but by those who live in it. ‘I wouldn’t like it’ is the 
complaint of the individualist who puts forth his own 
susceptibilities to reinforcement as established values. A 
world that would be liked by contemporary people 
would perpetuate the status quo. It would be liked be- 
cause people have been taught to like it, and for reasons 
which do not always bear scrutiny. A better world will be 
liked by those who live in it because it has been designed 
with an eye to what is, or can be, most reinforcing. 

A complete break with the past is impossible. The de- 
signer of a new culture will always be culture-bound, 
since he will not be able to free himself entirely from the 
predispositions which have been engendered by the social 
environment in which he has lived. To some extent he 
will necessarily design a world he likes. Moreover, a new 
culture must appeal to those who are to move into it, and 
they are necessarily the products of an older culture. 
Within these practical limits, however, it should be pos- 
sible to minimize the effect of accidental features of pre- 
vailing cultures and to turn to the sources of the things 
people call good. The ultimate sources are to be found in 
the evolution of the species and the evolution of the 

i6* Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

It is sometimes said that the scientific design of a cul- 
ture is impossible because man will simply not accept the 
fact that he can be controlled. Even if it could be proved 
that human behaviour is fully determined, said Dostoy- 
evsky, a man 

would still do something out of sheer perversity - he would 
create destruction and chaos - just to gain his point ... And 
if all this could in turn be analysed and prevented by predict- 
ing that it would occur, then man would deliberately go mad 
to prove his point. 

The implication is that he would then be out of control, 
as if madness were a special kind of freedom or as if the 
behaviour of a psychotic could not be predicted or con- 

There is a sense in which Dostoyevsky might be right. 
A literature of freedom may inspire a sufficiently fanatical 
opposition to controlling practices to generate a neu- 
rotic if not psychotic response. There are signs of emo- 
tional instability in those who have been deeply affected 
by the literature. We have no better indication of the 
plight of the traditional libertarian than the bitterness 
with which he discusses the possibility of a science and 
technology of behaviour and their use in the intentional 
design of a culture. Name-calling is common. Arthur 
Koestler has referred to behaviourism as ‘a monumental 
triviality’. It represents, he says, ‘question-begging on a 
heroic scale’. It has spun psychology into 'a modern version 
of the Dark Ages’. Behaviourists use ‘pedantic jar- 
gon’, and reinforcement is ‘an ugly word’. The equip- 
ment in the operant laboratory is a ‘contraption’. Peter 
Gay, whose scholarly work on the eighteenth-century En- 
lightenment should have prepared him for a modern in- 
terest in cultural design, has spoken of the ‘innate 

The Design of a Culture 163 

nai'vet^, intellectual bankruptcy, and half-deliberate cruelty 
of behaviourism’. 

Another symptom is a kind of blindness to the current 
state of the science. Koestler has said that ‘the most im- 
pressive experiment in the “prediction and control of be- 
haviour’’ is to train pigeons, by optional conditioning, to 
strut about with their heads held unnaturally high’. He 
paraphrases ‘learning theory’ in the following way: 

According to the Behaviourist doctrine, all learning occurs 
by the hit-and-miss or trial-and-error method. The correct 
response to a given stimulus is hit upon by chance and has a 
rewarding or, as the jargon has it, reinforcing effect; if the 
reinforcement is strong or repeated often enough, the response 
will be ‘stamped in’ and an S-R bond, a stimulus and response 
link, is formed. 

The paraphrase is approximately seventy years out of 

Other common misrepresentations include the assertions 
that a scientific analysis treats all behaviour as responses 
to stimuli or as ‘all a matter of conditioned reflexes’, 
that it acknowledges no contributions to behaviour 
from genetic endowment, and that it ignores conscious- 
ness. (We shall see in the next chapter that behaviourists 
have been responsible for the most vigorous discussion of 
the nature and use of what is called consciousness.) State- 
ments of this kind commonly appear in the humanities, a 
field once distinguished for its scholarship, but it will be 
difficult for the historian of the future to reconstruct cur- 
rent behavioural science and technology from what is 
written by its critics. 

Another practice is to blame behaviourism for all our 
ills. The practice has a long history; the Romans blamed 
the Christians, and the Christians the Romans, for earth- 
quakes and pestilence. Perhaps no one has gone quite as 

164 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

far in blaming a scientific conception of man for the seri- 
ous problems which confront us today as an anonymous 
writer in the Times Literary Supplement: 

During the last half-century our various intellectual leaders 
have conditioned us (the very word is a product of be- 
haviourism) to regard the world in quantitative and covertly 
deterministic terms. Philosophers and psychologists alike have 
eroded all our old assumptions of free will and moral respon- 
sibility. The sole reality, we have been taught to believe, lies 
in the physical order of things. We do not initiate action; 
we react to a series of external stimuli. It is only in recent 
years that we have begun to see where this view of the world 
is taking us : the grim events in Dallas and Los Angeles . . . 

In other words, the scientific analysis of human behav- 
iour was responsible for the assassinations of John and 
Robert Kennedy. A delusion of this magnitude seems to 
confirm Dostoyevsky’s prediction. Political assassination 
has had too long a history to have been inspired by a 
science of behaviour. If any theory is to be blamed, it is 
the all but universal theory of a free and worthy auton- 
omous man. 

There are, of course, good reasons why the control of 
human behaviour is resisted. The commonest techniques 
are aversive, and some sort of countercontrol is to be ex- 
pected. The controllee may move out of range (the con- 
troller will work to keep him from dbing so), or he may 
attack, and ways of doing so have emerged as important 
steps in the evolution of cultures. Thus the members of a 
group establish the principle that it is wrong to use force 
and punish those who do so with any available means. 
Governments codify the principle and call the use of 
force illegal, and religions call it sinful, and both arrange 
contingencies to suppress it. When controllers then turn 
to methods which are non-aversive but have deferred 

The Design of a Culture 165 

aversive consequences, additional principles emerge. 
The group calls it wrong to control through deception, 
for example, and governmental and religious sanctions 

We have seen that the literatures of freedom and dig- 
nity have extended these countercontrolling measures in 
an effort to suppress all controlling practices even when 
they have no aversive consequences or have offsetting 
reinforcing consequences. The designer of a culture 
comes under fire because explicit design implies control 
(if only the control exerted by the designer). The issue is 
often formulated by asking: Who is to control? And the 
question is usually raised as if the answer were necessarily 
threatening. To prevent the misuse of controlling power, 
however, we must look not at the controller himself but 
at the contingencies under which he engages in control. 

We are misled by differences in the conspicuousness of 
controlling measures. The Egyptian slave, cutting stone 
in a quarry for a pyramid, worked under the supervision 
of a soldier with a whip, who was paid to wield the whip 
by a paymaster, who was paid in turn by a Pharaoh, who 
had been convinced of the necessity of an inviolable 
tomb by priests, who argued to this effect because of the 
sacerdotal privileges and power which then came to them, 
and so on. A whip is a more obvious instrument of con- 
trol than wages, and wages are more conspicuous than 
sacerdotal privileges, and privileges are more obvious 
than the prospect of an affluent future life. There are 
related differences in the results. The slave will escape if 
he can, the soldier or paymaster will resign or strike if the 
economic contingencies are too weak, the Pharaoh will 
dismiss his priests and start a new religion if his treasury 
is unduly strained, and the priests will shift their support 
to a rival. We are likely to single out the conspicuous 
examples of control, because, in their abruptness and 

166 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

clarity of effect, they seem to start something; but it is a 
great mistake to ignore the inconspicuous forms. 

The relation between the controller and the controlled 
is reciprocal. The scientist in the laboratory, studying the 
behaviour of a pigeon, designs contingencies and observes 
their effects. His apparatus exerts a conspicuous control 
on the pigeon, but we must not overlook the control ex- 
erted by the pigeon. The behaviour of the pigeon has 
determined the design of the apparatus and the pro- 
cedures in which it is used. Some such reciprocal control 
is characteristic of all science. As Francis Bacon put it, 
nature to be commanded must be obeyed. The scientist 
who designs a cyclotron is under the control of the par- 
ticles he is studying. The behaviour with which a parent 
controls his child, either aversively or through positive 
reinforcement, is shaped and maintained by the child’s 
responses. A psychotherapist changes the behaviour of his 
patient in ways which have been shaped and maintained 
by his success in changing that behaviour. A government 
or religion prescribes and imposes sanctions selected by 
their effectiveness in controlling citizen or communicant. 
An employer induces his employees to work industriously 
and carefully with wage systems determined by their 
effects on behaviour. The classroom practices of the 
teacher are shaped and maintained by the effects on his 
students. In a very real sense, then, the slave controls the 
slave driver, the child the parent, the patient the thera- 
pist, the citizen the government, the communicant the 
priest, the employee the employer, and the student the 

It is true that the physicist designs a cyclotron in order 
to control the behaviour of certain subatomic particles; 
the particles do not behave in characteristic ways in order 
to get him to do so. The slave driver uses a whip in order to 
make the slave work; the slave does not work in order 

The Design of a Culture 167 

to induce the slave driver to use a whip. The intention or 
purpose implied by the phrase ‘in order to’ is a matter of 
the extent to which consequences are effective in altering 
behaviour, and hence the extent to which they must be 
taken into account to explain it. The particle is not 
affected by the consequences of its action, and there is no 
reason to speak of its intention or purpose, but the slave 
may be affected by the consequences of his action. Re- 
ciprocal control is not necessarily intentional in either 
direction, but it becomes so when the consequences make 
themselves felt. A mother learns to take up and carry a 
baby in order to get it to stop crying, and she may learn 
to do so before the baby learns to cry in order to be taken 
up and carried. For a time only the mother’s behaviour is 
intentional, but the baby’s may become so. 

The archetypal pattern of control for the good of the 
controllee is the benevolent dictator, but it is no explana- 
tion to say that he acts benevolently because he is benev- 
olent or because he feels benevolent, and we naturally 
remain suspicious until we can point to contingencies 
which generate benevolent behaviour. Feelings of benev- 
olence or compassion may accompany that behaviour, 
but they may also arise from irrelevant conditions. They 
are therefore no guarantee that a controller will neces- 
sarily control well with respect to either himself or others 
because he feels compassionate. It is said that Rama- 
krishna, walking with a wealthy friend, was shocked by 
the poverty of some villagers. He exclaimed to his friend, 
‘Give these people one piece of cloth and one good meal 
each, and some oil for their heads.’ When his friend at 
first refused, Ramakrishna shed tears. ‘You wretch,’ he 
cried, '. . . I’m staying with these people. They have no 
one to care for them. I won’t leave them.’ We note 
that Ramakrishna was concerned not with the spiritual 

168 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

condition of the villagers but with clothing, food, and 
protection against the sun. But his feelings were not a by- 
product of effective action; with all the power of his 
samadhi he had nothing to offer but compassion. 
Although cultures are improved by people whose wisdom 
and compassion may supply clues to what they do or will 
do, the ultimate improvement comes from the environ- 
ment which makes them wise and compassionate. 

The great problem is to arrange effective countercon- 
trol and hence to bring some important consequences to 
bear on the behaviour of the controller. Some classical 
examples of a lack of balance between control and coun- 
tercontrol arise when control is delegated and counter- 
control then becomes ineffective. Hospitals for psychotics 
and homes for retardates, orphans, and old people are 
noted for weak countercontrol, because those who are 
concerned for the welfare of such people often do not 
know what is happening. Prisons offer little opportunity 
for countercontrol, as the commonest controlling meas- 
ures indicate. Control and countercontrol tend to become 
dislocated when control is taken over by organized agen- 
cies. Informal contingencies are subject to quick adjust- 
ment as their effects change, but the contingencies which 
organizations leave to specialists may be untouched by 
many of the consequences. Those who pay for education, 
for example, may lose touch with what is taught and with 
the methods used. The teacher is subject only to the 
countercontrol exerted by the student. As a result, a 
school may become wholly autocratic or wholly anarchis- 
tic, and what is taught may go out of date as the world 
changes or be reduced to the things students will consent 
to study. There is a similar problem in jurisprudence 
when laws continue to be enforced which are no longer 
appropriate to the practices of the community. Rules 
never generate behaviour exactly appropriate to the con- 

The Design of a Culture 1 69 

tingencies from which they are derived, and the discrep- 
ancy grows worse if the contingencies change while the 
rules remain inviolate. Similarly, the values imposed on 
goods by economic enterprises may lose their correspond- 
ence with the reinforcing effects of the goods, as the latter 
change. In short, an organized agency which is insensitive 
to the consequences of its practices is not subject to. im- 
portant kinds of countercontrol. 

Self-government often seems to solve the problem by 
identifying the controller with the controlled. The prin- 
ciple of making the controller a member of the group he 
controls should apply to the designer of a culture. A per- 
son who designs a piece of equipment for his own use 
presumably takes the interests of the user into account, 
and the person who designs a social environment in 
which he is to live will presumably do the same. He will 
select goods or values which are important to him and 
arrange the kind of contingencies to which he can adapt. 
In a democracy the controller is found among the con- 
trolled, although he behaves in different ways in the two 
roles. We shall see later that there is a sense in which a 
culture controls itself, as a person controls himself, but 
the process calls for careful analysis. 

The intentional design of a culture, with the implica- 
tion that behaviour is to be controlled, is sometimes 
called ethically or morally wrong. Ethics and morals are 
particularly concerned with bringing the remoter conse- 
quences of behaviour into play. There is a morality of 
natural consequences. How is a person to keep from eat- 
ing delicious food if it will later make him sick? Or how 
is he to submit to pain or exhaustion if he must do so to 
reach safety? Social contingencies are much more likely 
to raise moral and ethical issues. (As we have noted, the 
terms refer to the customs of groups.) How is a person to 

170 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

refrain from taking goods which belong to others in order 
to avoid the punishment which may then follow? Or how 
is he to submit to pain or exhaustion to gain their appro- 

The practical question, which we have already con- 
sidered, is how remote consequences can be made effec- 
tive. Without help a person acquires very little moral or 
ethical behaviour under either natural or social contin- 
gencies. The group supplies supporting contingencies 
when it describes its practices in codes or rules which tell 
the individual how to behave and when it enforces 
those rules with supplementary contingencies. Maxims, 
proverbs, and other forms of folk wisdom give a person 
reasons for obeying rules. Governments and religions 
formulate the contingencies they maintain somewhat more 
explicitly, and education imparts rules which make it pos- 
sible to satisfy both natural and social contingencies 
without being directly exposed to them. 

This is all part of the social environment called a cul- 
ture, and the main effect, as we have seen, is to bring the 
individual under the control of the remoter consequences 
of his behaviour. The effect has had survival value in the 
process of cultural evolution, since practices evolve be- 
cause those who practise them are as a result better off. 
There is a kind of natural morality in both biological 
and cultural evolution. Biological evolution has made 
the human species more sensitive to its environment and 
more skilful in dealing with it. Cultural evolution was 
made possible by biological evolution, and it has brought 
the human organism under a much more sweeping con- 
trol of the environment. 

We say that there is something ‘morally wrong’ about a 
totalitarian state, a gambling enterprise, uncontrolled 
piecework wages, the sale of harmful drugs, or undue per- 
sonal influence, not because of any absolute set of values, 

The Design of a Culture 171 

but because all these things have aversive consequences. 
The consequences are deferred, and a science that clari- 
fies their relation to behaviour is in the best possible posi- 
tion to specify a better world in an ethical or moral sense. 
It is not true, therefore, that the empirical scientist must 
deny that there can be ‘any scientific concern with 
human and political values and goals’, or that morality, 
justice, and order under law lie ‘beyond survival’. 

A special value in scientific practice is also relevant. 
The scientist works under contingencies that minimize 
immediate personal reinforcers. No scientist is ‘pure’, in 
the sense of being out of reach of immediate reinforcers, 
but other consequences of his behaviour play an import- 
ant role. If he designs an experiment in a particular way, 
or stops an experiment at a particular point, because the 
result will then confirm a theory bearing his name, or 
will have industrial uses from which he will profit, or will 
impress the agencies that support his research, he will 
almost certainly run into trouble. The published results 
of scientists are subject to rapid check by others, and the 
scientist who allows himself to be swayed by consequences 
that are not part of his subject matter is likely to find 
himself in difficulties. To say that scientists are therefore 
more moral or ethical than other people, or that they 
have a more finely developed ethical sense, is to make the 
mistake of attributing to the scientist what is actually a 
feature of the environment in which he works. 

Almost everyone makes ethical and moral judgements, 
but this does not mean that the human species has ‘an 
inborn need or demand for ethical standards’. (We could 
say as well that it has an inborn need or demand for 
unethical behaviour, since almost everyone behaves un- 
ethically at some time or other.) Man has not evolved as 
an ethical or moral animal. He has evolved to the point 
at which he has constructed an ethical or moral culture. 

17* Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

He differs from the other animals not in possessing a 
moral or ethical sense but in having been able to gen- 
erate a moral or ethical social environment. 

The intentional design of a culture and the control of 
human behaviour it implies are essential if the human 
species is to continue to develop. Neither biological nor 
cultural evolution is any guarantee that we are inevitably 
moving towards a better world. Darwin concluded the Ori- 
gin of Species with a famous sentence: ‘And as natural 
selection works solely by and for the good of each being, 
all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to pro- 
gress towards perfection.’ And Herbert Spencer argued 
that ‘the ultimate development of the ideal man is logic- 
ally certain’ (though Medawar has pointed out that 
Spencer changed his mind when thermodynamics sug- 
gested a different kind of terminus in the concept of en- 
tropy). Tennyson shared the eschatological optimism of 
his day in pointing to that ‘one far off divine event to- 
wards which the whole creation moves’. But extinct 
species and extinct cultures testify to the possibility of 

Survival value changes as conditions change. For ex- 
ample, a strong susceptibility to reinforcement by certain 
kinds of foods, sexual contact, and aggressive damage was 
once extremely important. When a person spent a good 
part of each day in searching for food, it was important 
that he quickly learnt where to find it or how to catch it, 
but with the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry 
and ways of storing food, the advantage was lost, and the 
capacity to be reinforced by food now leads to overeating 
and illness. When famine and pestilence frequently deci- 
mated the population, it was important that men should 
breed at every opportunity, but with improved sanita- 
tion, medicine, and agriculture, the susceptibility to sex- 

The Design of a Culture 173 

ual reinforcement now means overpopulation. At a time 
when a person had to defend himself against predators, 
including other people, it was important that any sign of 
damage to a predator should reinforce the behaviour 
having that effect, but with the evolution of organized 
society the susceptibility to that kind of reinforcement 
has become less important and may now interfere with 
more useful social relations. It is one of the functions of a 
culture to correct for these innate dispositions through 
the design of techniques of control, and particularly of 
self-control, which moderate the effects of reinforcement. 

Even under stable conditions a species may acquire 
non-adaptive or maladaptive features. The process of 
operant conditioning itself supplies an example. A quick 
response to reinforcement must have had survival value, 
and many species have reached the point at which a 
single reinforcement has a substantial effect. But the 
more rapidly an organism learns, the more vulnerable it 
is to adventitious contingencies. The accidental appear- 
ance of a reinforcer strengthens any behaviour in pro- 
gress and brings it under the control of current stimuli. 
We call the result superstitious. So far as we know, any 
species capable of learning from a few reinforcements is 
subject to superstition, and the consequences are often 
disastrous. A culture corrects for this defect when it de- 
vises statistical procedures which offset the effects of ad- 
ventitious contingencies and bring behaviour under the 
control of only those consequences which are functionally 
related to it. 

What is needed is more control, not less, and this is 
itself an engineering problem of the first importance. 
The good of a culture cannot function as the source of 
genuine reinforcers for the individual, and the rein- 
forcers contrived by cultures to induce their members to 
work for their survival are often in conflict with personal 

174 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

reinforcers. The number of people explicitly engaged in 
improving the design of automobiles, for example, must 
greatly exceed the number of those concerned with im- 
proving life in city ghettos. It is not that the automobile 
is more important than a way of life, but rather that the 
economic contingencies which induce people to improve 
automobiles are very powerful. They arise from the per- 
sonal reinforcers of those who manufacture automobiles. 
No reinforcers of comparable strength encourage the en- 
gineering of the pure survival of a culture. The tech- 
nology of the automobile industry is also, of course, much 
further advanced than a technology of behaviour. These 
facts simply underline the importance of the threat posed 
by the literatures of freedom and dignity. 

A sensitive test of the extent to which a culture pro- 
motes its own future is its treatment of leisure. Some 
people have enough power to force or induce others to 
work for them in such a way that they themselves have 
little to do. They are ‘at leisure’. So are those who live in 
especially beneficent climates. And so are children, the 
retarded or mentally ill, the aged, and others who are in 
the care of other people. And so are members of both 
affluent and welfare societies. All such people appear to 
be able to ‘do as they please’, and this is a natural goal of 
the libertarian. Leisure is the epitome of freedom. 

The species is prepared for short periods of leisure; 
when completely satiated by a large meal, or when dan- 
ger has been successfully avoided, people relax or sleep, as 
other species do. If the condition survives a little longer, 
they may engage in various forms of play - serious be- 
haviour having at the moment non-serious consequences. 
But the result is very different when there is nothing to 
do for long periods of time. The caged lion in the zoo, 
well fed and safe, does not behave like the satiated lion 

The Design of a Culture 1 75 

in the field. Like the institutionalized human being, it 
faces the problem of leisure in its worst form: it has 
nothing to do. Leisure is a condition for which the 
human species has been badly prepared, because until 
very recently it was enjoyed by only a few, who contrib- 
uted very little to the gene pool. Large numbers of 
people are now at leisure for appreciable periods of time, 
but there has been no chance for effective selection of 
either a relevant genetic endowment or a relevant cul- 

When strong reinforcers are no longer effective, lesser 
reinforcers take over. Sexual reinforcement survives 
affluence or welfare because it is concerned with the sur- 
vival of the species rather than the individual, and the 
achievement of sexual reinforcement is not a thing one 
delegates to others. Sexual behaviour, therefore, takes a 
prominent place in leisure. Reinforcements which re- 
main effective may be contrived or discovered, such as 
foods which continue to reinforce even when one is not 
hungry, drugs like alcohol, marijuana, or heroin, which 
happen to be reinforcing for irrelevant reasons, or mas- 
sage. Any weak reinforcer becomes powerful when prop- 
erly scheduled, and the variable-ratio schedule to be 
found in all gambling enterprises comes into its own dur- 
ing leisure. The same schedule explains the dedication of 
the hunter, fisherman, or collector, where what is caught 
or collected is not of any great significance. In games and 
sports, contingencies are especially contrived to make 
trivial events highly important. People at leisure also be- 
come spectators, watching the serious behaviour of others 
as in the Roman circus or a modern football game, or in 
the theatre or movies, or they listen to or read accounts of 
the serious behaviour of other people, as in gossip or 
literature. Little of this behaviour contributes to per- 
sonal survival or the survival of a culture. 

176 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

Leisure has long been associated with artistic, literary, 
and scientific productivity. One must be at leisure, to en- 
gage in these activities, and only a reasonably affluent 
society can support them on a broad scale. But leisure 
itself does not necessarily lead to art, literature, or science. 
Special cultural conditions are needed. Those who are 
concerned with the survival of their culture will therefore 
look closely at the contingencies which remain when 
the exigent contingencies in daily life have been attenu- 

It is often said that an affluent culture can afford leis- 
ure, but we cannot be sure. It is easy for those who work 
hard to confuse a state of leisure with reinforcement, 
partly because it often accompanies reinforcement, and 
happiness, like freedom, has long been associated with 
doing as one pleases; yet, the actual effect upon human 
behaviour may threaten the survival of a culture. The 
enormous potential of those who have nothing to do can- 
not be overlooked. They may be productive or destruc- 
tive, conserving or consuming. They may reach the limits 
of their capacities or be converted into machines. They 
may support the culture if they are strongly reinforced 
by it or defect if life is boring. They may or may not 
be prepared to act effectively when leisure comes to an 

Leisure is one of the great challenges to those who are 
concerned with the survival of a culture because any at- 
tempt to control what a person does when he does not 
need to do anything is particularly likely to be attacked 
as unwarranted meddling. Life, liberty, and the pursuit 
of happiness are basic rights. But they are the rights of 
the individual and were listed as such at a time when the 
literatures of freedom and dignity were concerned with 
the aggrandizement of the individual. They have only a 
minor bearing on the survival of a culture. 

The Design of a Culture 177 

The designer of a culture is not an interloper or med- 
dler. He does not step in to disturb a natural process, he 
is part of a natural process. The geneticist who changes 
the characteristics of a species by selective breeding or by 
changing genes may seem to be meddling in biological 
evolution, but he does so because his species has evolved 
to the point at which it has been able to develop a science 
of genetics and a culture which induces its members to 
take the future of a species into account. 

Those who have been induced by their culture to act 
to further its survival through design must accept the fact 
that they are altering the conditions under which men 
live and, hence, engaging in the control of human be- 
haviour. Good government is as much a matter of the 
control of human behaviour as bad, good incentive con- 
ditions as much as exploitation, good teaching as much as 
punitive drill. Nothing is to be gained by using a softer 
word. If we are content merely to ‘influence’ people, we 
shall not get far from the original meaning of that word - 
‘an ethereal fluid thought to flow from the stars and to 
affect the actions of men’. 

Attacking controlling practices is, of course, a form of 
countercontrol. It may have immeasurable benefits if 
better controlling practices are thereby selected. But the 
literatures of freedom and dignity have made the mistake 
of supposing that they are suppressing control rather 
than correcting it. The reciprocal control through which 
a culture evolves is then disturbed. To refuse to exercise 
available control because in some sense all control is 
wrong is to withhold possibly important forms of counter- 
control. We have seen some of the consequences. Punitive 
measures, which the literatures of freedom and dignity 
have otherwise helped to eliminate, are instead pro- 
moted. A preference for methods which make control in- 
conspicuous or allow it to be disguised has condemned 

178 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

those who are in a position to exert constructive counter- 
control to the use of weak measures. 

This could be a lethal cultural mutation.. Our culture 
has produced the science and technology it needs to save 
itself. It has the wealth needed for effective action. It has, 
to a considerable extent, a concern for its own future. But 
if it continues to take freedom or dignity, rather than its 
own survival, as its principal value, then it is possible that 
some other culture will make a greater contribution to 
the future. The defender of freedom and dignity may 
then, like Milton’s Satan, continue to tell himself that he 
has ‘a mind not to be changed by place or time’ and an 
all-sufficient personal identity (‘What matter where, if I 
be still the same?’), but he will nevertheless find himself 
in hell with no other consolation than the illusion that 
‘here at least we shall be free’. 

A culture is like the experimental space used in the study 
of behaviour. It is a set of contingencies of reinforcement, 
a concept which has only recently begun to be under- 
stood. The technology of behaviour which emerges is 
ethically neutral, but when applied to the design of a 
culture, the survival of the culture functions as a value. 
Those who have been induced to work for their culture 
need to foresee some of the problems to be solved, but 
many current features of a culture have an obvious bear- 
ing on its survival value. The designs to be found in the 
utopian literature appeal to certain simplifying prin- 
ciples. They have the merit of emphasizing survival value: 
Will the utopia work? The world at large is, of course, 
much more complex, but the processes are the same and 
practices work for the same reasons. Above all, there is 
the same advantage in stating objectives in behavioural 
terms. The use of science in designing a culture is com- 

The Design of a Culture 179 

monly opposed. It is said that the science is inadequate, 
that its use may have disastrous consequences, that it will 
not produce a culture which members of other cultures 
will like, and in any case that men will somehow refuse to 
be controlled. The misuse of a technology of behaviour is 
a serious matter, but we can guard against it best by look- 
ing not at putative controllers but at the contingencies 
under which they control. It is not the benevolence of a 
controller but the contingencies under which he controls 
benevolently which must be examined. All control is re- 
ciprocal, and an interchange between control and counter- 
control is essential to the evolution of a culture. The 
interchange is disturbed by the literatures of freedom 
and dignity, which interpret countercontrol as the sup- 
pression rather than the correction of controlling prac- 
tices. The effect could be lethal. In spite of remarkable 
advantages, our culture may prove to have a fatal flaw. 
Some other culture may then make a greater contribu- 
tion to the future. 


What Is Man? 

As a science of behaviour adopts the strategy of physics 
and biology, the autonomous agent to which behaviour 
has traditionally been attributed is replaced by the en? 
vironment - the environment in which the species 
evolved and in which the behaviour of the individual is 
shaped and maintained. The vicissitudes of ‘environmen- 
talism’ show how difficult it has been to make this change. 
That a man's behaviour owes something to antecedent 
events and that the environment is a more promising 
point of attack than man himself has long been recog- 
nized. As Crane Brinton observed, ‘a programme to 
change things not just to convert people’ was a significant 
part of the English, French, and Russian revolutions. It 
was Robert Owen, according to Trevelyan, who first 
‘clearly grasped and taught that environment makes 
character and that environment is under human control’ 
or, as Gilbert Seldes wrote, ‘that man is a creature of cir- 
cumstance, that if you changed the environments of 
thirty little Hottentots and thirty little aristocratic Eng- 
lish children, the aristocrats would become Hottentots, 
for all practical purposes, and the Hottentots little con- 

The evidence for a crude environmentalism is clear 
enough. People are extraordinarily different in different 
places, and possibly just because of the places. The no- 
mad on horseback in Outer Mongolia and the astronaut 
in outer space are different people, but, as far as we 

What Is Man? 181 

know, if they had been exchanged at birth, they would 
have taken each other’s place. (The expression ‘change 
places’ shows how closely we identify a person’s behaviour 
with the environment in which it occurs.) But we need to 
know a great deal more before that fact becomes useful. 
What is it about the environment that produces a Hot- 
tentot? And what would need to be changed to produce 
an English conservative instead? 

Both the enthusiasm of the environmentalist and his 
usually ignominious failure are illustrated by Owen’s 
utopian experiment at New Harmony. A long history of 
environmental reform - in education, penology, industry, 
and family life, not to mention government and religion 
- has shown the same pattern. Environments are con- 
structed on the model of environments in which good 
behaviour has been observed, but the behaviour fails to 
appear. Two hundred years of this kind of environmen- 
talism has very little to show for itself, and for a simple 
reason. We must know how the environment works 
before we can change it to change behaviour. A mere 
shift in emphasis from man to environment means very 

Let us consider some examples in which the environ- 
ment takes over the function and role of autonomous 
man. The first, often said to involve human nature, is 
aggression. Men often act in such a way that they harm 
others, and they often seem to be reinforced by signs of 
damage to others. The ethologists have emphasized con- 
tingencies of survival which would contribute these fea- 
tures to the genetic endowment of the species, but the 
contingencies of reinforcement in the lifetime of the in- 
dividual are also significant, since anyone who acts ag- 
gressively to harm others is likely to be reinforced in 
other ways - for example, by taking possession of goods. 

182 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

The contingencies explain the behaviour quite apart from 
any state or feeling of aggression or any initiating act by 
autonomous man. 

Another example involving a so-called ‘trait of charac- 
ter’ is industry. Some people are industrious in the sense 
that they work energetically for long periods of time, 
while others are lazy and idle in the sense that they do 
not. ‘Industry’ and ‘laziness’ are among thousands of so- 
called 'traits'. The behaviour they refer to can be ex- 
plained in other ways. Some of it may be attributed to 
genetic idiosyncrasies (and subject to change only through 
genetic measures), and the rest to environmental contin- 
gencies, which are much more important than is usually 
realized. Regardless of any normal genetic endowment, 
an organism will range between vigorous activity and 
complete quiescence depending upon the schedules on 
which it has been reinforced. The explanation shifts 
from a trait of character to an environmental history of 

A third example, a ‘cognitive’ activity, is attention. A 
person responds only to a small part of the stimuli imping- 
ing upon him. The traditional view is that he himself 
determines which stimuli are to be effective by ‘paying 
attention' to them. Some kind of inner gatekeeper is said 
to allow some stimuli to enter and to keep all others out. 
A sudden or strong stimulus may break through and ‘at- 
tract’ attention, but the person himself seems Otherwise to 
be in control. An analysis of the environmental circum- 
stances reverses the relation. The kinds of stimuli which 
break through by ‘attracting attention’ do so because 
they have been associated in the evolutionary history of 
the species or the personal history of the individual with 
important - e.g., dangerous - things. Less forceful stimuli 
attract attention only to the extent that they have figured 
in contingencies of reinforcement. We can arrange con- 

What Is Man? 183 

tingencies which ensure that an organism - even such a 
‘simple’ organism as a pigeon - will attend to one object 
and not to another, or to one property of an object, such 
as its colour, and not to another, such as its shape. The 
inner gatekeeper is replaced by the contingencies to 
which the organism has been exposed and which select 
the stimuli to which it reacts. 

In the traditional view a person perceives the world 
around him and acts upon it to make it known to him. In 
a sense he reaches out and grasps it. He ‘takes it in’ and 
possesses it. He ‘knows’ it in the Biblical sense in which a 
man knows a woman. It has even been argued that the 
world would not exist if no one perceived it. The action 
is exactly reversed in an environmental analysis. There 
would, of course, be no perception if there were no world 
to be perceived, but an existing world would not be per- 
ceived if there were no appropriate contingencies. We say 
that a baby perceives his mother’s face and knows it. Our 
evidence is that the baby responds in one way to his 
mother’s face and in other ways to other faces or other 
things. He makes this distinction not through some men- 
tal act of perception but because of prior contingencies. 
Some of these may be contingencies of survival. Physical 
features of a species are particularly stable parts of the 
environment in which a species evolves. (That is why 
courtship and sex and relations between parent and off- 
spring are given such a prominent place by ethologists.) 
The face and facial expressions of the human mother 
have been associated with security, warmth, food, and 
other important things, during both the evolution of the 
species and the life of the child. 

We learn to perceive in the sense that we learn to 
respond to things in particular ways because of the con- 
tingencies of which they are a part. We may perceive the 
sun, for example, simply because it is an extremely power- 

184 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

ful stimulus, but it has been a permanent part of the en- 
vironment of the species throughout its evolution and 
more specific behaviour with respect to it could have 
been selected by contingencies of survival (as it has been 
in many other species). The sun also figures in many cur- 
rent contingencies of reinforcement : we move into or out 
of sunlight depending on the temperature; we wait for 
the sun to rise or set to take practical action; we talk 
about the sun and its effects; and we eventually study the 
sun with the instruments and methods of science. Our 
perception of the sun depends on what we do with re- 
spect to it. Whatever we do, and hence however we per- 
ceive it, the fact remains that it is the environment which 
acts upon the perceiving person, not the perceiving per- 
son who acts upon the environment. 

The perceiving and knowing which arise from verbal 
contingencies are even more obviously products of the 
environment. We react to an object in many practical 
ways because of its colour; thus, we pick and eat red 
apples of a particular variety but not green. It is clear 
that we can ‘tell the difference’ between red and green, 
but something more is involved when we say that we 
know that one apple is red and the other green. It is 
tempting to say that knowing is a cognitive process alto- 
gether divorced from action, but the contingencies pro- 
vide a more useful distinction. When someone asks about 
the colour of an object which he cannot see, and we tell 
him that it is red, we do nothing about the object in any 
other way. It is the person who has questioned us and 
heard our answer who makes a practical response which 
depends on colour. Only under verbal contingencies can 
a speaker respond to an isolated property to which a non- 
verbal response cannot be made. A response made to the 
property of an object without responding to the object in 
any other way is called abstract. Abstract thinking is the 

What Is Man? 185 

product of a' particular kind of environment, not of a 
cognitive faculty. 

As listeners we acquire a kind of knowledge from the 
verbal behaviour of others which may be extremely valu- 
able in permitting us to avoid direct exposure to con- 
tingencies. We learn from the experience of others by 
responding to what they say about contingencies. When we 
are warned against doing something or are advised to do 
something, there may be no point in speaking of know- 
ledge, but when we learn more durable kinds of warnings 
and advice in the form of maxims or rules, we may be 
said to have a special kind of knowledge about the con- 
tingencies to which they apply. The laws of science are 
descriptions of contingencies of reinforcement, and one 
who knows a scientific law may behave effectively without 
being exposed to the contingencies it describes. (He will, 
of course, have very different feelings about the contin- 
gencies, depending on whether he is following a rule or 
has been directly exposed to them. Scientific knowledge is 
‘cold’, but the behaviour to which it gives rise is as effec- 
tive as the ‘warm’ knowledge which comes from personal 

Isaiah Berlin has referred to a particular sense of 
knowing, said to have been discovered by Giambattista 
;Vico. It is 

the sense in which I know what it is to be poor, to fight for a 
cause, belong to a nation, to join or abandon a church or a 
party, to feel nostalgia, terror, the omnipresence of a god, to 
understand a gesture, a work of art, a joke, a man’s character, 
that one is transformed or lying to oneself. 

These are the kinds of things one is likely to learn 
through direct contact with contingencies rather than 
from the verbal behaviour of others, and special kinds of 
feelings are no doubt associated with them, but, even so. 

186 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

the knowledge is not somehow directly given. A person 
can know what it is to fight for a cause only after a long 
history during which he has learned to perceive and to 
know that state of affairs called fighting for a cause. 

The role of the environment is particularly subtle 
when what is known is the knower himself. If there is no 
external world to initiate knowing, must we not then say 
that the knower himself acts first? This is, of course, the 
field of consciousness, or awareness, a field which a scien- 
tific analysis of behaviour is often accused of ignoring. 
The charge is a serious one and should be taken seriously; 
Man is said to differ from the other animals mainly be- 
cause he is ‘aware of his own existence’. He knows what 
he is doing; he knows that he has had a past and will 
have a future; he ‘reflects on his own nature’; he alone 
follows the classical injunction ‘Know thyself’. Any analy- 
sis of human behaviour which neglected these facts 
would be defective indeed. And some analyses do. What 
is called ‘methodological behavourism’ limits itself to 
what can be publicly observed; mental processes may ex- 
ist, but they are ruled out of scientific consideration by 
their nature. The ‘behaviouralists’ in political science 
and many logical positivists in philosophy have followed 
a similar line. But self-observation can be studied, and it 
must be included in any reasonably complete account of 
human behaviour. Rather than ignore consciousness, an 
experimental analysis of behaviour has stressed certain 
crucial issues. The question is not whether a man can 
know himself but what he knows when he does so. 

The problem arises in part from the indisputable fact 
of privacy : a small part of the universe is enclosed within 
a human skin. It would be foolish to deny the existence 
of that private world, but it is also foolish to assert that 
because it is private it is of a different nature from the 
world outside. The difference is not in the stuff of which 

What Is Man? 187 

the private world is composed, but in its accessibility. 
There is an exclusive intimacy about a headache, or 
heartache, or a silent soliloquy. The intimacy is some- 
times distressing (one cannot shut one’s eyes to a head- 
ache), but it need not be, and it has seemed to support 
the doctrine that knowing is a kind of possession. 

The difficulty is that although privacy may bring the 
knower closer to what he knows, it interferes with the 
process through which he comes to know anything. As we 
saw in Chapter 6, the contingencies under which a child 
learns to describe his feelings are necessarily defective; 
the verbal community cannot use the procedures with 
which it teaches a child to describe objects. There are, of 
course, natural contingencies under which we learn to 
respond to private stimuli, and they generate behaviour 
of great precision; we could not jump or walk or turn a 
handspring if we were not being stimulated by parts of 
our own body. But very little awareness is associated with 
this kind of behaviour and, in fact, we behave in these 
ways most of the time without being aware of the stimuli 
to which we are responding. We do not attribute aware- 
ness to other species which obviously use similar private 
stimuli. To ‘know’ private stimuli is more than to re- 
spond to them. 

The verbal community specializes in self-descriptive 
contingencies. It asks such questions as: What did you do 
yesterday? What are you doing now? What will you do 
tomorrow? Why did you do that? Do you really want to 
do that? How do you feel about that? The answers help 
people to adjust to each other effectively. And it is be- 
cause such questions are asked that a person responds to 
himself and his behaviour in the special way called know- 
ing or being aware. Without the help of a verbal com- 
munity all behaviour would be unconscious. Consciousness 
is a social product. It is not only not the special field 

1 88 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

of autonomous man, it is not within range of a solitary 

And it is not within the range of accuracy of anyone. 
The privacy which seems to confer intimacy upon self- 
knowledge makes it impossible for the verbal community 
to maintain precise contingencies. Introspective vocabu- 
laries are by nature inaccurate, and that is one reason 
why they have varied so widely among schools of phil- 
osophy and psychology. Even a carefully trained observer 
runs into trouble when new private stimuli are studied. 
(Independent evidence of private stimulation - for ex-t 
ample, through physiological measures - would make it 
possible to sharpen the contingencies which generate self- 
observation and would, incidentally, confirm the present 
interpretation. Such evidence would not, as we noted in 
Chapter 1, offer any support for a theory which attri- 
buted human behaviour to an observable inner agent.) 

Theories of psychotherapy which emphasize awareness 
assign a role to autonomous man which is properly, and 
much more effectively, reserved for contingencies of rein- 
forcement. Awareness may help if the problem is in part 
a lack of awareness, and ‘insight’ into one’s condition 
may help if one then takes remedial action, but aware- 
ness or insight alone is not always enough, and it may be 
too much. One need not be aware of one’s behaviour or 
the conditions controlling it in order to behave effec- 
tively - or ineffectively. On the contrary, as the toad’s 
inquiry of the centipede demonstrates, constant self- 
observation may be a handicap. The accomplished pianist 
would perform badly if he were as clearly aware of his 
behaviour as the student who is just learning to play. 

Cultures are often judged by the extent to which they 
encourage self-observation. Some cultures are said to 
breed unthinking men, and Socrates has been admired 
for inducing men to inquire into their own nature, but 

What Is Man? 189 

self-observation is only a preliminary to action. The ex- 
tent to which a man should be aware of himself depends 
upon the importance of self-observation for effective be- 
haviour. Self-knowledge is valuable only to the extent 
that it helps to meet the contingencies under which it has 

Perhaps the last stronghold of autonomous man is that 
complex ‘cognitive’ activity called thinking. Because it is 
complex, it has yielded only slowly to explanation in 
terms of contingencies of reinforcement. When we say 
that a person discriminates between red and orange, we 
imply that discrimination is a kind of mental act. The per- 
son himself does not seem to be doing anything; he res- 
ponds in different ways to red and orange stimuli', but 
this is the result of discrimination rather than the act. 
Similarly, we say that a person generalizes - say, from his 
own limited experience to the world at large - but all we 
see is that he responds to the world at large as he has 
learned to respond to his own small world. We say that a 
person forms a concept or an abstraction, but all we see is 
that certain kinds of contingencies of reinforcement have 
brought a response under the control of a single property 
of a stimulus. We say that a person recalls or remembers 
what he has seen or heard, but all we see is that the 
present occasion evokes a response, possibly in weakened 
or altered form, acquired on another occasion. We say that 
a person associates one word with another, but all we ob- 
serve is that one verbal stimulus evokes the response pre- 
viously made to another. Rather than suppose that it is 
therefore autonomous man who discriminates, general- 
izes, forms concepts or abstractions, recalls or remembers, 
and associates, we can put matters in good order simply 
by noting that these terms do not refer to forms of be- 

190 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

A person may take explicit action, however, when he 
solves a problem. In putting a jigsaw puzzle together he 
may move the pieces around to improve his chances of 
finding a fit. In solving an equation he may transpose, 
clear fractions, and extract roots to improve his chances 
of finding a form of the equation he has already learned 
how to solve. The creative artist may manipulate a med- 
ium until something of interest turns up. Much of this can 
be done covertly, and it is then likely to be assigned to a 
different dimensional system, but it can always be done 
overtly, perhaps more slowly but also often more effec-i 
tively, and with rare exceptions it must have been 
learned in overt form. The culture promotes thinking by 
constructing special contingencies. It teaches a person to 
make fine discriminations by making differential rein- 
forcement more precise. It teaches techniques to be used 
in solving problems. It provides rules which make it un- 
necessary to be exposed to the contingencies from which 
the rules are derived, and it provides rules for finding 

Self-control, or self-management, is a special kind of 
problem-solving which, like self-knowledge, raises all the 
issues associated with privacy. We have discussed some 
techniques in connection with aversive control in Chap- 
ter 4. It is always the environment which builds the be- 
haviour with which problems are solved, even when the 
problems are to be found in the private world inside the 
skin. None of this has been investigated in a very produc- 
tive way, but the inadequacy of our analysis is no reason 
to fall back on a miracle-working mind. If our under- 
standing of contingencies of reinforcement is not yet 
sufficient to explain all kinds of thinking, we must re- 
member that the appeal to mind explains nothing at all. 

In shifting control from autonomous man to the ob- 
servable environment we do not leave an empty organ- 

What Is Man? 191 

ism. A great deal goes on inside the skin, and physiology 
will eventually tell us more about it. It will explain why 
behaviour is indeed related to the antecedent events of 
which it can be shown to be a function. The assignment 
is not always correctly understood. Many physiologists re- 
gard themselves as looking for the ‘physiological corre- 
lates’ of mental events. Physiological research is regarded 
as simply a more scientific version of introspection. But 
physiological techniques are not, of course, designed to 
detect or measure personalities, ideas, attitudes, feelings, 
impulses, thoughts, or purposes. (If they were, we should 
have to answer a third question in addition to those 
raised in Chapter 1 : How can a personality, idea, feeling, 
or purpose affect the instruments of the physiologist?) At 
the moment neither introspection nor physiology sup- 
plies very adequate information about what is going on 
inside a man as he behaves, and since they are both dir- 
ected inward, they have the same effect of diverting at- 
tention from the external environment. 

Much of the misunderstanding about an inner man 
comes from the metaphor of storage. Evolutionary and 
environmental histories change an organism, but they are 
not stored within it. Thus, we observe that babies suck 
their mothers’ breasts, and we can easily imagine that a 
strong tendency to do so has survival valuer but much 
more is implied by a ‘sucking instinct’ regarded as some- 
thing a baby possesses which enables it to suck. The 
concept of 'human nature’ or 'genetic endowment’ is dan- 
gerous when taken in that sense. We are closer to human 
nature in a baby than in an adult, or in a primitive cul- 
ture than in an advanced, in the sense that environ- 
mental contingencies are less likely to have obscured the 
genetic endowment, and it is tempting to dramatize that 
endowment by implying that earlier stages have survived 
in concealed form : man is a naked ape, and ‘the palaeo- 

iga Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

lithic bull which survives in man’s inner self still paws the 
earth whenever a threatening gesture is made on the 
social scene’. But anatomists and physiologists will not 
find an ape, or a bull, or for that matter instincts. They 
will find anatomical and physiological features which are 
the product of an evolutionary history. 

The personal history of the individual is also often said 
to be stored within him. For ‘instinct’ read ‘habit’. The 
cigarette habit is presumably something more than the 
behaviour said to show that a person possesses it; but the 
only other information we have concerns the reinforcerS 
and the schedules of reinforcement which make a person 
smoke a great deal. The contingencies are not stored; 
they have simply left a changed person. 

The environment is often said to be stored in the form 
of memories : to recall something we search for a copy of 
it, which can then be seen as the original thing was seen. 
As far as we know, however, there are no copies of the 
environment in the individual at any time, even when a 
thing is present and being observed. The products of 
more complex contingencies are also said to be stored; 
the repertoire acquired as a person learns to speak French 
is called a ’knowledge of French’. 

Traits of character, whether derived from contingencies 
of survival or contingencies of reinforcement, are also 
said to be stored. A curious example occurs in Follett’s 
Modern American Usage: ‘We say He faced the ad- 
versities bravely, aware without thought that the bravery 
is a property of the man, not of the facing; a brave act is 
poetic shorthand for the act of a person who shows 
bravery by performing it.’ But we call a man brave 
because of his acts, and he behaves bravely when en- 
vironmental circumstances induce him to do so. The 
circumstances have changed his behaviour; they have not 
implanted a trait or virtue. 

What Is Man? 193 

Philosophies are also spoken of as things possessed. A 
man is said to speak or act in certain ways because he has 
a particular philosophy - such as idealism, dialectical 
materialism, or Calvinism. Terms of this kind summarize 
the effect of environmental conditions which it would 
now be hard to trace, but the conditions must have 
existed and should not be ignored. A person who possesses 
a ‘philosophy of freedom’ is one who has been changed in 
certain ways by the literature of freedom. 

The issue has had a curious place in theology. Does 
man sin because he is sinful, or is he sinful because he 
sins? Neither question points to anything very useful. To 
say that a man is sinful because he sins is to give an 
operational definition of sin. To say that he sins because 
he is sinful is to trace his behaviour to a supposed inner 
trait. But whether or not a person engages in the kind 
of behaviour called sinful depends upon circumstances 
which are not mentioned in either question. The sin as- 
signed as an inner possession (the sin a person ‘knows’) is 
to be found in a history of reinforcement. (The expres- 
sion ‘God-fearing’ suggests such a history, but piety, vir- 
tue, the immanence of God, a moral sense, or morality 
does not. As we have seen, man is not a moral animal in 
the sense of possessing a special trait or virtue; he has 
built a kind of social environment which induces him to 
behave in moral ways.) 

These distinctions have practical implications. A re- 
cent survey of white Americans is said to have shown that 
‘more than half blamed the inferior educational and eco- 
nomic status of blacks on ‘‘something about Negroes 
themselves”.’ The ‘something’ was further identified as 
‘lack of motivation’, which was to be distinguished from 
both genetic and environmental factors. Significantly, 
motivation was said to be associated with ‘free will’. To 
neglect the role of the environment in this way is to dis- 

ig4 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

courage any inquiry into the defective contingencies re- 
sponsible for a ‘lack of motivation’. 

It is in the nature of an experimental analysis of 
human behaviour that it should strip away the functions 
previously assigned to autonomous man and transfer 
them one by one to the controlling environment. The 
analysis leaves less and less for autonomous man to do. 
But what about man himself? Is there not something 
about a person which is more than a living body? Unless 
something called a self survives, how can we speak of self- 
knowledge or self-control? To whom is the injunction 
‘Know thyself’ addressed? 

It is an important part of the contingencies to which a 
young child is exposed that his own body is the only part 
of his environment which remains the same (idem) from 
moment to moment and day to day. We say that he dis- 
covers his identity as he learns to distinguish between his 
body and the rest of the world. He does this long before 
the community teaches him to call things by name and to 
distinguish ‘me’ from ‘it’ or ‘you’. 

A self is a repertoire of behaviour appropriate to a 
given set of contingencies. A substantial part of the con- 
ditions to which a person is exposed may play a dominant 
role, and under other conditions a person may report, 
‘I’m not myself today,’ or, ‘I couldn’t have done what 
you said I did, because that’s not like me.’ The identity 
conferred upon a self arises from the contingencies 
responsible for the behaviour. Two or more repertoires 
generated by different sets of contingencies compose two 
or more selves. A person possesses one repertoire appro- 
priate to his life with his friends and another appropriate 
to his life with his family, and a friend may find him a 
very different person if he sees him with his family or his 
family if they see him with his friends. The problem of 

What Is Man? 195 

identity arises when situations are intermingled, as when a 
person finds himself with both his family and his friends 
at the same time. 

Self-knowledge and self-control imply two selves in this 
sense. The self-knower is almost always a product of 
social contingencies, but the self that is known may come 
from other sources. The controlling self (the conscience 
or superego) is of social origin, but the controlled self is 
more likely to be the product of genetic susceptibilities to 
reinforcement (the id, or the Old Adam). The controlling 
self generally represents the interests of others, the con- 
trolled self the interests of the individual. 

The picture which emerges from a scientific analysis is 
not of a body with a person inside, but of a body which is 
a person in the sense that it displays a complex repertoire 
of behaviour. The picture is, of course, unfamiliar. The 
man thus portrayed is a stranger, and from the tradi- 
tional point of view he may not seem to be a man at all. 
‘For at least one hundred years,’ said Joseph Wood 

we have been prejudiced in every theory, including economic 
determinism, mechanistic behaviourism, and relativism, that 
reduces the stature of man until he ceases to be man at all in 
any sense that the humanists of an earlier generation would 
; recognize. 

Matson has argued that ‘the empirical behavioural scien- 
tist denies, if only by implication, that a unique be- 
ing, called Man, exists’. ‘What is now under attack,’ said 
Maslow, ‘is the “being” of man.’ C. S. Lewis put it quite 
bluntly: Man is being abolished. 

There is clearly some difficulty in identifying the man 
to whom these expressions refer. Lewis cannot have meant 
the human species, for not only is it not being abolished, 
it is filling the earth. (As a result it may eventually abolish 

196 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

itself through disease, famine, pollution, or a nuclear 
holocaust, but that is not what Lewis meant.) Nor are 
individual men growing less effective or productive. We 
are told that what is threatened is ‘man qua man’, or ‘man 
in his humanity’, or ‘man as Thou not It’, or ‘man as a 
person not a thing’. These are not very helpful expressions, 
but they supply a clue. What is being abolished is autono- 
mous man - the inner man, the homunculus, the possess- 
ing demon, the man defended by the literatures of freedom 
and dignity. 

His abolition has long been overdue. Autonomous man 
is a device used to explain what we cannot explain in any 
other way. He has been constructed from our ignorance, 
and as our understanding increases, the very stuff of 
which he is composed vanishes. Science does not dehu- 
manize man, it de-homunculizes him, and it must do so if 
it is to prevent the abolition of the human species. To 
man qua man we readily say good riddance. Only by dis- 
possessing him can we turn to the real causes of human 
behaviour. Only then can we turn from the inferred to 
the observed, from the miraculous to the natural, from 
the inaccessible to the manipulable. 

It is often said that in doing so we must treat the man 
who survives as a mere animal. ‘Animal’ is a pejorative 
term, but only because ‘man’ has been made spuriously 
honorific. Krutch has argued that whereas the traditional 
view supports Hamlet’s exclamation, ‘How like a godl’, 
Pavlov, the behavioural scientist, emphasized ‘How like a 
dog I’ But that was a step forward. A god is the arche- 
typal pattern of an explanatory fiction, of a miracle-work- 
ing mind, of the metaphysical. Man is much more than 
a dog, but like a dog he is within range of a scientific 

It is true that much of the experimental analysis of 
behaviour has been concerned with lower organisms. 

What Is Man? 197 

Genetic differences are minimized by using special 
strains; environmental histories can be controlled, per- 
haps from birth; strict regimens can be maintained dur- 
ing long experiments; and very little of this is possible 
with human subjects. Moreover, in working with lower 
animals the scientist is less likely to put his own responses 
to the experimental conditions among his data, or to de- 
sign contingencies with an eye to their effect on him 
rather than on the experimental organism he is studying. 
No one is disturbed when physiologists study respiration, 
reproduction, nutrition, or endocrine systems in animals; 
they do so to take advantage of very great similarities. 
Comparable similarities in behaviour are being discov- 
ered. There is, of course, always the danger that methods 
designed for the study of lower animals will emphasize 
only those characteristics which they have in common 
with men, but we cannot discover what is ‘essentially’ 
human until we have investigated non-human subjects. 
Traditional theories of autonomous man have exag- 
gerated species differences. Some of the complex 
contingencies of reinforcement now under investigation 
generate behaviour in lower organisms which, if the 
subjects were human, would traditionally be said to 
involve higher mental processes. 

Man is not made into a machine by analysing his be- 
haviour in mechanical terms. Early theories of behaviour, 
as we have seen, represented man as a push-pull automa- 
ton, close to the nineteenth-century notion of a machine; 
but progress has been made. Man is a machine in the 
sense that he is a complex system behaving in lawful 
ways, but the complexity is extraordinary. His capacity to 
adjust to contingencies of reinforcement will perhaps be 
eventually simulated by machines, but this has not yet 
been done, and the living system thus simulated will re- 
main unique in other ways. 

ig8 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

Nor is man made into a machine by inducing him to 
use machines. Some machines call for behaviour which is 
repetitious and monotonous, and we escape from them 
when we can, but others enormously extend our effective- 
ness in dealing with the world around us. A person may 
respond to very small things with the help of an electron 
microscope and to very large things with radiotelescopes, 
and in doing so he may seem quite inhuman to those who 
use only their unaided senses. A person may act upon the 
environment with the delicate precision of a micro- 
manipulator or with the range and power of a space rocket,! 
and his behaviour may seem inhuman to those who rely 
only on muscular contractions. (It has been argued that 
the apparatus used in the operant laboratory misrepre- 
sents natural behaviour because it introduces an external 
source of power, but men use external sources when they 
fly kites, sail boats, or shoot bows and arrows. They would 
have to abandon all but a small fraction of their achieve- 
ments if they used only the power of their muscles.) 
People record their behaviour in books and other media, 
and the use they make of the records may seem quite 
inhuman to those who can use only what they remember. 
People describe complex contingencies in the form of 
rules, and rules for manipulating rules, and they intro- 
duce them into electronic systems which ‘think’ with a 
speed that seems quite inhuman to the unaided thinker. 
Human beings do all this with machines, and they would 
be less than human if they did not. What we now regard 
as machine-like behaviour was, in fact, much commoner 
before the invention of these devices. The slave in the 
cotton field, the book-keeper on his high stool, the stu- 
dent being drilled by a teacher - these were the machine- 
like men. 

Machines replace people when they do what people 
have done, and the social consequences may be serious. 

What Is Man? 199 

As technology advances, machines will take over more 
and more of the functions of men, but only up to a point. 
We build machines which reduce some of the aversive 
features of our environment (gruelling labour, for ex- 
ample) and which produce more positive reinforcers. We 
build them precisely because they do so. We have no rea- 
son to build machines to be reinforced by these conse- 
quences, and to do so would be to deprive ourselves of 
reinforcement. If the machines man makes eventually 
make him wholly expendable, it will be by accident, not 

An important role of autonomous man has been to 
give human behaviour direction, and it is often said that 
in dispossessing an inner agent we leave man himself 
without a purpose. As one writer has put it, ‘Since a 
scientific psychology must regard human behaviour ob- 
jectively, as determined by necessary laws, it must repre- 
sent human behaviour as unintentional.’ But ‘necessary 
laws’ would have this effect only if they referred exclu- 
sively to antecedent conditions. Intention and purpose 
refer to selective consequences, the effects of which can be 
formulated in ‘necessary laws’. Has life, in- all the forms 
in which it exists on the surface of the earth, a purpose, 
and is this evidence of intentional design? The primate 
hand evolved in order that things might be more success- 
fully manipulated, but its purpose is to be found not in a 
prior design but rather in the process of selection. Simi- 
larly, in operant conditioning the purpose of a skilled 
movement of the hand is to be found in the consequences 
which follow it. A pianist neither acquires nor executes 
the behaviour of playing a scale smoothly because of a 
prior intention of doing so. Smoothly played scales are 
reinforcing for many reasons, and they select skilled move- 
ments. In neither the evolution of the human hand nor 

200 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

in the acquired use of the hand is any prior intention or 
purpose at issue. 

The argument for purpose seems to be strengthened by 
moving back into the darker recesses of mutation. 
Jacques Barzun has argued that Darwin and Marx both 
neglected not only human purpose but the creative pur- 
pose responsible for the variations upon which natural 
selection plays. It may prove to be the case, as some gene- 
ticists have argued, that mutations are not entirely ran- 
dom, but non-randomness is not necessarily the proof of a 
creative mind. Mutations will not be random when gene-’ 
ticists explicitly design them in order that an organism 
will meet specific conditions of selection more success- 
fully, and geneticists will then seem to be playing the role 
of the creative Mind in pre-evolutionary theory, but the 
purpose they display will have to be sought in their cul- 
ture, in the social environment which has induced them 
to make genetic changes appropriate to contingencies of 

There is a difference between biological and individ- 
ual purpose in that the latter can be felt. No one could 
have felt the purpose in the development of the human 
hand, whereas a person can in a sense feel the purpose 
with which he plays a smooth scale. But he does not play 
a smooth scale because he feels the purpose of doing so; 
what he feels is a by-product of his behaviour in relation 
to its consequences. The relation of the human hand to 
the contingencies of survival under which it evolved is, of 
course, out of reach of personal observation; the relation 
of the behaviour to contingencies of reinforcement which 
have generated it is not. 

A scientific analysis of behaviour dispossesses auton- 
omous man and turns the control he has been said to 
exert over to the environment. The individual may then 

What Is Man? soi 

seem particularly vulnerable. He is henceforth to be con- 
trolled by the world around him, and in large part by 
other men. Is he not then simply a victim? Certainly 
men have been victims, as they have been victimizes, but 
the word is too strong. It implies despoliation, which is 
by no means an essential consequence of interpersonal 
control. But even under benevolent control, is the indi- 
vidual not at best a spectator who may watch what hap- 
pens but is helpless to do anything about it? Is he not 
‘at a dead end in his long struggle to control his own 

It is only autonomous man who has reached a dead 
end. Man himself may be controlled by his environment, 
but it is an environment which is almost wholly of his 
own making. The physical environment of most people is 
largely man-made. The surfaces a person walks on, the 
walls which shelter him, the clothing he wears, many of 
the foods he eats, the tools he uses, the vehicles he moves 
about in, most of the things he listens to and looks at are 
human products. The social environment is obviously 
man-made - it generates the language a person speaks, 
the customs he follows, and the behaviour he exhibits 
with respect to the ethical, religious, governmental, eco- 
nomic, educational, and psychotherapeutic institutions 
which control him. The evolution of a culture is in fact a 
kind of gigantic exercise in self-control. As the individual 
controls himself by manipulating the world in which he 
lives, so the human species has constructed an environ- 
ment in which its members behave in a highly effective 
way. Mistakes have been made, and we have no assurance 
that the environment man has constructed will continue 
to provide gains which outstrip the losses, but man as we 
know him, for better or for worse, is what man has made 
of man. 

This will not satisfy those who cry ‘Victim 1 ’ C. S. Lewis 

So* Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

protested : . the power of man to make himself what he 

pleases means . . . the power of some men to make 
other men what they please’. This is inevitable in the 
nature of cultural evolution. The controlling self must be 
distinguished from the controlled self, even when they 
are both inside the same skin, and when control is exer- 
cised through the design of an external environment, the 
selves are, with minor exceptions, distinct. The person 
who unintentionally or intentionally introduces a new 
cultural practice is only one among possibly billions who 
will be affected by it. If this does not seem like an act of 
self-control, it is only because we have misunderstood the 
nature of self-control in 'the individual. 

When a person changes his physical or social environ- 
ment ‘intentionally’ - that is, in order to change human 
behaviour, possibly including his own - he plays two 
roles: one as a controller, as the designer of a controlling 
culture, and another as the controlled, as the product of a 
culture. There is nothing inconsistent about this; it fol- 
lows from the nature of the evolution of a culture, with 
or without intentional design. 

The human species has probably not undergone much 
genetic change in recorded time. We have only to go back 
a thousand generations to reach the artists of the caves of 
Lascaux. Features which bear directly on survival (such 
as resistance to disease) change substantially in a thou- 
sand generations, but the child of one of the Lascaux 
artists transplanted to the world of today might be almost 
indistinguishable from a modern child. It is possible that 
he would learn more slowly than his modern counterpart, 
that he could maintain only a smaller repertoire without 
confusion, or that he would forget more quickly; we can- 
not be sure. But we can be sure that a twentieth-century 
child transplanted to the civilization of Lascaux would 
not be very different from the children he met there, for 

What Is Man? 203 

we have seen what happens when a modern child is raised 
in an impoverished environment. 

Man has greatly changed himself as a person in the 
same period of time by changing the world in which he 
lives. Something of the order of a hundred generations will 
cover the development of modern religious practices, and 
something of the same order of magnitude modern gov- 
ernment and law. Perhaps no more than twenty genera- 
tions will account for modern industrial practices, and 
possibly no more than four or five for education and psy- 
chotherapy. The physical and biological technologies 
which have increased man’s sensitivity to the world 
around him and his power to change that world have 
taken no more than four or five generations. 

Man has ‘controlled his own destiny’, if that expression 
means anything at all. The man that man has made is the 
product of the culture man has devised. He has emerged 
from two quite different processes of evolution : the bio- 
logical evolution responsible for the human species and 
the cultural evolution carried out by that species. Both of 
these processes of evolution may now accelerate because 
they are both subject to intentional design. Men have 
already changed their genetic endowment by breeding 
selectively and by changing contingencies of survival, and 
they may now begin to introduce mutations directly re- 
lated to survival. For a long time men have introduced 
new practices which serve as cultural mutations, and they 
have changed the conditions under which practices are 
selected. They may now begin to do both with a clearer 
eye to the consequences. 

Man will presumably continue to change, but we can- 
not say in what direction. No one could have predicted 
the evolution of the human species at any point in its 
early history, and the direction of intentional genetic de- 
sign will depend upon the evolution of a culture which is 

204 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

itself unpredictable for similar reasons. ‘The limits of 
perfection of the human species’, said Etienne Cabet in 
Voyage en Icarie, 'are as yet unknown.’ But, of course, 
there are no limits. The human species will never reach a 
final state of perfection before it is exterminated - ‘some 
say in fire, some in ice’, and some in radiation. 

The individual occupies a place in a culture not unlike 
his place in the species, and in early evolutionary theory 
that place was hotly debated. Was the species simply a 
type of individual, and if so, in what sense could it; 
evolve? Darwin himself declared species ‘to be purely 
subjective inventions of the taxonomist’. A species has no 
existence except as a collection of individuals, nor has a 
family, tribe, race, nation, or class. A culture has no exist- 
ence apart from the behaviour of the individuals who 
maintain its practices. It is always an individual who be- 
haves, who acts upon the environment and is changed by 
the consequences of his action, and who maintains the 
social contingencies which are a culture. The individual 
is the carrier of both his species and his culture. Cultural 
practices, like genetic traits, are transmitted from indi- 
vidual to individual. A new practice, like a new genetic 
trait, appears first in an individual and tends to be trans- 
mitted if it contributes to his survival as an individual. 

Yet, the individual is at best a locus in which many 
lines of development come together in a unique set. His 
individuality is unquestioned. Every cell in his body is a 
unique genetic product, as unique as that classic mark of 
individuality, the fingerprint. And even within the most 
regimented culture every personal history is unique. No 
intentional culture can destroy that uniqueness, and, as 
we have seen, any effort to do so would be bad design. 
But the individual nevertheless remains merely a stage in 
a process which began long before he came into existence 

What Is Man? 205 

and will long outlast him. He has no ultimate responsi- 
bility for a species trait or a cultural practice, even 
though it was he who underwent the mutation or intro- 
duced the practice which became part of the species or 
culture. Even if Lamarck had been right in supposing 
that the individual could change his genetic structure 
through personal effort, we should have to point to the 
environmental circumstances responsible for the effort, as 
we shall have to do when geneticists begin to change the 
human endowment. And when an individual engages in 
the intentional design of a cultural practice, we must 
turn to the culture which induces him to do so and sup- 
plies the art or science he uses. 

One of the great problems of individualism, seldom 
recognized as such, is death - the inescapable fate of the 
individual, the final assault on freedom and dignity. 
Death is one of those remote events which are brought to 
bear on behaviour only with the aid of cultural practices. 
What we see is the death of others, as in Pascal’s famous 
metaphor : 

Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of 
death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of 
the others; those remaining see their own condition in that 
of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and 
despair await their turn. This is an image of the human con- 

Some religions have made death more important by pic- 
turing a future existence in heaven or hell, but the indi- 
vidualist has a special reason to fear death, engineered 
not by a religion but by the literatures of freedom and 
dignity. It is the prospect of personal annihilation. The 
individualist can find no solace in reflecting upon any 
contribution which will survive him. He has refused to 
act for the good of others and is therefore not reinforced 

206 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

by the fact that others whom he has helped will outlive 
him. He has refused to be concerned for the survival of 
his culture and is not reinforced by the fact that the cul- 
ture will long survive him. In the defence of his own 
freedom and dignity he has denied the contributions of 
the past and must therefore relinquish all claim upon the 

Science has probably never demanded a more sweeping 
change in a traditional way of thinking about a subject, 
nor has there ever been a more important subject. In the'- 
traditional picture a person perceives the world around 
him, selects features to be perceived, discriminates among 
them, judges them good or bad, changes them to make 
them better (or, if he is careless, worse), and may be held 
responsible for his action and justly rewarded or pun- 
ished for its consequences. In the scientific picture a 
person is a member of a species shaped by evolutionary 
contingencies of survival, displaying behavioural processes 
which bring him under the control of the environment in 
which he lives, and largely under the control of a social 
environment which he and millions of others like him 
have constructed and maintained during the evolution of 
a culture. The direction of the controlling relation is re- 
versed: a person does not act upon the world, the world 
acts upon him. 

It is difficult to accept such a change simply on 
intellectual grounds and nearly impossible to accept its 
implications. The reaction of the traditionalist is usually 
described in terms of feelings. One of these, to which the 
Freudians have appealed in explaining the resistance to 
psychoanalysis, is wounded vanity. Freud himself ex- 
pounded, as Ernest Jones has said, ‘the three heavy blows 
which narcissism or self-love of mankind had suffered at 
the hands of science. The first was cosmological and was 

What Is Man? 207 

dealt by Copernicus; the second was biological and 
was dealt by Darwin; the third was psychological and was 
dealt by Freud.’ (The blow was suffered by the belief that 
something at the centre of man knows all that goes on 
within him and that an instrument called will-power ex- 
ercises command and control over the rest of one’s per- 
sonality.) But what are the signs or symptoms of wounded 
vanity, and how shall we explain them? What people do 
about such a scientific picture of man is call it wrong, 
demeaning, and dangerous, argue against it, and attack 
those who propose or defend it. They do so not out of 
wounded vanity but because the scientific formulation 
has destroyed accustomed reinforcers. If a person can no 
longer take credit or be admired for what he does, then 
he seems to suffer a loss of dignity or worth, and be- 
haviour previously reinforced by credit or admiration 
will undergo extinction. Extinction often leads to aggres- 
sive attack. 

Another effect of the scientific picture has been de- 
scribed as a loss of faith or ‘nerve’, as a sense of doubt or 
powerlessness, or as discouragement, depression, or des- 
pondency. A person is said to feel that he can do nothing 
about his own destiny. But what he feels is a weakening 
of old responses which are no longer reinforced. People 
are indeed ‘powerless’ when long-established verbal reper- 
toires prove useless. For example, one historian has 
complained that if the deeds of men are ‘to be dismissed 
as simply the product of material and psychological 
conditioning’, there is nothing to write about; ‘change 
must be at least partially the result of conscious mental 

Another effect is a kind of nostalgia. Old repertoires 
break through, as similarities between present and past 
are seized upon and exaggerated. Old days are called the 
good old days, when the inherent dignity of man and the 

2 o 8 Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

importance of spiritual values were recognized. Such frag- 
ments of outmoded behaviour tend to be ‘wistful’ - that 
is, they have the character of increasingly unsuccessful 

These reactions to a scientific conception of man are 
certainly unfortunate. They immobilize men of good 
will, and anyone concerned with the future of his culture 
will do what he can to correct them. No theory changes 
what it is a theory about. Nothing is changed because we 
look at it, talk about it, or analyse it in a new way. Keats 
drank confusion to Newton for analysing the rainbow, 
but the rainbow remained as beautiful as ever and be- 
came for many even more beautiful. Man has not 
changed because we look at him, talk about him, and 
analyse him scientifically. His achievements in science, 
government, religion, art, and literature remain as they 
have always been, to be admired as one admires a storm 
at sea or autumn foliage or a mountain peak, quite apart 
from their origins and untouched by a scientific analysis. 
What does change is our chance of doing something 
about the subject of a theory. Newton’s analysis of the 
light in a rainbow was a step in the direction of the laser. 

The traditional concept of man is flattering; it confers 
reinforcing privileges. It is therefore easily defended and 
can be changed only with difficulty. It was designed to 
build up the individual as an instrument of counter- 
control, and it did so effectively but in such a way as to 
limit progress. We have seen how the literatures of free- 
dom and dignity, with their concern for autonomous 
man, have perpetuated the use of punishment and con- 
doned the use of only weak non-punitive techniques, and 
it is not difficult to demonstrate a connection between the 
unlimited right of the individual to pursue happiness 
and the catastrophes threatened by unchecked breeding, 
the unrestrained affluence which exhausts resources and 

What Is Man? 209 

pollutes the environment, and the imminence of nuclear 

Physical and biological technologies have alleviated 
pestilence and famine and many painful, dangerous, and 
exhausting features of daily life, and behavioural tech- 
nology can begin to alleviate other kinds of ills. In the 
analysis of human behaviour it is just possible that we 
are slightly beyond Newton’s position in the analysis of 
light, for we are beginning to make technological appli- 
cations. There are wonderful possibilities - and all the 
more wonderful because traditional approaches have 
been so ineffective. It is hard to imagine a world in which 
people live together without quarrelling, maintain them- 
selves by producing the food, shelter, and clothing they 
need, enjoy themselves and contribute to the enjoyment 
of others in art, music, literature, and games, consume 
only a reasonable part of the resources of the world and 
add as little as possible to its pollution, bear no more 
children than can be raised decently, continue to explore 
the world around them and discover better ways of deal- 
ing with it, and come to know themselves accurately and, 
therefore, manage themselves effectively. Yet all this is 
possible, and even the slightest sign of progress should 
bring a kind of change which in traditional terms would 
be said to assuage wounded vanity, offset a sense of hope- 
lessness or nostalgia, correct the impression that ‘we 
neither can nor need to do anything for ourselves’, and 
promote a ‘sense of freedom and dignity’ by building ‘a 
sense of confidence and worth’. In other words, it should 
abundantly reinforce those who have been induced by 
their culture to work for its survival. 

2 1 o Beyond Freedom and Dignity 

An experimental analysis shifts the determination of be- 
haviour from autonomous man to the environment - an 
environment responsible both for the evolution of the 
species and for the repertoire acquired by each member. 
Early versions of environmentalism were inadequate be- 
cause they could not explain how the environment 
worked, and much seemed to be left for autonomous man 
to do. But environmental contingencies now take over 
functions once attributed to autonomous man, and cer- 
tain questions arise. Is man then ‘abolished’? Certainly 
not as a species or as an individual achiever. It is the 
autonomous inner man who is abolished, and that is a 
step forward. But does man not then become merely a 
victim or passive observer of what is happening to him? 
He is indeed controlled by his environment, but we must 
remember that it is an environment largely of his own 
making. The evolution of a culture is a gigantic exercise 
in self-control. It is often said that a scientific view of 
man leads to wounded vanity, a sense of hopelessness, 
and nostalgia. But no theory changes what it is a theory 
about; man remains what he has always been. And a new 
theory may change what can be done with its subject 
matter. A scientific view of man offers exciting possibili- 
ties. We have not yet seen what man can make of man. 


References cited in the text and additional comments appear 
below, together with references to further discussions of certain 
topics in other books by the writer, identified as follows: 

BO The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis (New 
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1938) 

WT Walden Two (New York: Macmillan, 1948) 

SHB Science and Human Behavior (New York: Macmillan, 1953) 
VB Verbal Behavior (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 

SR Schedules of Reinforcement, with Charles B. Ferster (New York: 
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957) 

CR Cumulative Record, Revised Edition (New York: Appleton- 
Century-Crofts, 1961) 

TT The Technology of Teaching (New York: Appleton-Century- 
Crofts, 1968) 

COR Contingencies of Reirforcement : A Theoretical Analysis (New 
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1969) 

The code at the left of entries indicates page number and line 
number of the materials described. 

9/21 C. D. Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society. Quoted 
in Science, 1970, 168, 1332. 

13/10 ‘cause’ What is no longer common in sophisticated 
scientific writing is the push-pull causality of nineteenth-century 
science. The causes referred to here are, technically speaking, 
the independent variables of which behaviour as a dependent 
variable is a function. See SHB, chap. 3. 

13/19 On ‘possession’, see COR, chap. 9. 

14/7 Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modem Science (London: 


Notes 212 

16/1 1 Karl R. Popper, Of Clouds and Clocks (St Louis: Washing- 
ton University Press, 1966), p. 15. 

16/19 Eric Robertson Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational 
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951). 

1 7/27 mind and behaviour See COR, chap. 8. 

18/26 William James, ‘What Is an Emotion?’ Mind, 1884, g, 

22/16 the role of the environment See COR, chap. 1. 

22/20-1 Ren£ Descartes, Traite de I’homme (1662). 

23/ 1 7 ‘prodded and lashed through life’ E. B. Holt, Animal 
Drive and the Learning Process (New York: Henry Holt & Co. 
I 93 i)- 

24/5 ‘operant’ behaviour See SHB, chap. 5. 

24/16 practical applications of operant behaviour See Roger 
Ulrich, Thomas Stachnik, and John Mabry, eds., Control of 
Human Behavior, vols. 1 and 2 (Glenview, 111 . : Scott, Foresman 
& Co., 1966 and 1970). 

26/16-17 Joseph Wood Krutch, New York Times Magazine, 
30 July 1967. 

3 1 / 25-6 operant conditioning See SHB, chaps. 5 and 1 1 . 

34/15 On shock-induced aggression, see N. H. Azrin, R. R. 
Hutchinson, and R. D. Sallery, ‘Pain-aggression Toward 
Inanimate Objects’, J. Exp. Anal. Behav., 1964, 7, 223-8. See 
also N. H. Azrin, R. R. Hutchinson, and R. McLaughlin, ‘The 
Opportunity for Aggression as an Operant Reinforcer During 
Aversive Stimulation’, J. Exp. Anal. Behav., 1965, 8 , 171-80. 

36/1 1 Fuegians See Marston Bates, Where Winter Never Comes 
(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), p. 102. 

36/27 On feelings, see COR, n. 8.7. 

36/32 John Stuart Mill, Liberty (1859), chap. 5. 

38/2 positive reinforcement See SHB, chaps. 5 and 6. 

38/14-15 conditioned reinforcers See SHB, p. 76. 

39/4 Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, entry for 29 July i860, 
Journal : Memoires de la vie litteraire (Monaco, 1956). 

39/2 schedules of reinforcement A brief account is in SHB, 
pp. 99-106. For an extensive experimental analysis, see SR. 

40/19 self-control See SHB, chap. 15. 

Notes 213 

41/17 Bertrand de Jouvenel, Sovereignty, trans. J. F. Huntington 
(University of Chicago Press, 1957). 

42/29-30 power to confer or withhold unlimited benefit Justice 
Roberts in United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1, 56 Sup. Ct 312 
( I936 ). 

42/32-3 motive or temptation not equivalent to coercion 
Justice Cardozo in Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548, 
57 Sup. Ct 883 (1937)- 

43/22-3 unrestricted freedom to reproduce or not to reproduce 
See a letter to Science, 1970, 167, 1438. 

44/19 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile ou de Education (1762). 

49/28-9 Michel de Montaigne, Essais, III, ix (1580). 

50/1 ‘knee-crooking knave’ Othello, Act I, sc. 1. 

50/7 Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Vampire’. 

51/7 Francis, due de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes (1665). 

53/20-1 going two miles Matt. 5:41. 

55/1 sounding trumpets Matt. 6:2. 

56/31 creativity See B. F. Skinner, ‘Creating the Creative 
Artist’, in On the Future of Art (New York: The Viking Press, 
1970). (To be reprinted in CR, 3rd edn.) Also see SHB, pp. 

60/5 J. F. C. Fuller, article on ‘Tactics’, Encyclopaedia Brilanniea, 
14th edn. 

63/16 punishment See SHB, chap. 12. 

65/23 Freudian dynamisms See SHB, pp. 376-8. 

66/28-9 Biblical injunction Matt. 18:8. 

69/8 T. H. Huxley, ‘On Descartes’ Discourse on Method ’, in 
Methods and Results (New York: Macmillan, 1893), chap. 4. 

69/13 See Joseph Wood Krutch, The Measure of Man (Indiana- 
polis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1954), pp. 59-60. Mr Krutch later 
reported that ‘few statements have ever struck me as more 
shocking. Huxley seemed to be saying that he would, if he 
could, be a termite rather than a man.’ (‘Men, Apes, and 
Termites’, Saturday Review, 21 September 1963.) 

73/10 Mill on goodness See a review of James Fitzjames 
Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, in Times Literary Supplement, 
3 October 1968. 

Notes 214 

79/2 Raymond Bauer, The New Man in Soviet Psychology (Cam- 
bridge: Harvard University Press, 1952). 

81/6-7 Joseph de Maistre The passage was quoted in the New 
Statesman for August-September 1957. 

85/26 Socrates as midwife Plato, Meno. 

86/10 Freud and maieutics Quoted from Walter A. Kaufmann 
by David Shakow, ‘Ethics for a Scientific Age: Some Moral 
Aspects of Psychoanalysis’, The Psychoanalytic Review, fall 1965, 
52, no. 3. 

89/2 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Henry 
Reeve (Cambridge: Sever & Francis, 1863). 

89/5—6 Ralph Barton Perry, Pacific Spectator, spring 1953. 

92/31 prompts and hints See VB, chap. 10. 

94/33 operant discrimination See SHB, chap. 7. 

97/30 An editorial on abortion, Time, 13 October 1967. 

103/24 positive reinforcers See note for p. 24. 

104/7 For the significance of reinforcers in the evolution of the 
species, see COR, chap. 3. 

104/20 ‘respondent’ conditioning See SHB, chap. 4. 

105/12-14 On learning responses to private stimuli, see SHB, 
chap. 17. 

109/28 Eric Robertson Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational 
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951). 

1 1 1/2 1 ‘should’ and ‘ought’ See SHB, p. 429. 

113/10 Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (London: 
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1947), p. 53. 

1 14/31-2 For an extensive discussion of such agencies as govern- 
ment, religion, economics, education, and psychotherapy, see 
SHB, sec. 5. 

1 1 7/19 Abraham H. Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak- 
Experiences (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 

, 96 4 ). 

122/28 Dante, The Inferno, canto 3. 

>23/8 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dialogues (1789). 

1 26/9 the essential core of culture Alfred L. Krober and Clyde 
Kluckhohn, ‘Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and 
Definitions’, published in the Harvard University Peabody Museum 

Notes 215 

of American Archaeology and Ethnology Papers, vol. 47, no. 1 (Cam- 
bridge, 1952). (Paperback edn 1963.) 

129/1 1 the geography of Rome See, for example, F. R. Cowell, 
Cicero and the Roman Republic (London: Pitman & Sons, 1948). 

131/16 Social Darwinism See Richard Hofstadter, Social Dar- 
winism in American Thought (New York: George Braziller, 1944). 

137/14 Leslie A. White, The Evolution of Culture (New York: 
McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1959). 

139/33-4 language growing like an embryo See Roger Brown 
and Ursula Bellugi, ‘Three Processes in the Child’s Acquisition 
of Syntax’, Harvard Educational Review, 1964, 34, no. 2, 1 33-1 51. 

140/1 the language of the feral child Eric H. Lenneberg, in 
Biological Foundations of Language (New York: John Wiley & 
Sons, Inc., 1967), takes the contrary position of most psycho- 
linguists that some inner faculty fails to undergo ‘normal de- 
velopment’ (p. 142). 

145/18 changing feelings Feelings may seem to be changed 
when we cheer a person up with a drink or two or when he 
himself ‘reduces the aversive features of his internal world’ by 
drinking or by smoking marijuana. But what is changed is not 
the feeling but the bodily condition felt. The designer of a 
culture changes the feelings which accompany behaviour in its 
relation to the environment, and he does so by changing the 

145/32 observing contingencies of reinforcement See COR, pp. 

148/2 contingency management For a convenient collection of 
reports, see Roger Ulrich, Thomas Stachnik andjohn Mabry, 
eds., Control of Human Behavior, vols. 1 and 2 (Glenview, 111 .: 
Scott, Foresman & Co., 1966 and 1970). 

I 5 I / 3 _ 4 utopias as experimental cultures See COR, chap. 

151/13 behavioural utopias Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World 
(1932) is no doubt the best known. It was a satire, but Huxley 
recanted and tried his hand at a serious version in Island (1962). 
The dominant psychology of the twentieth century, psycho- 
analysis, spawned no utopias. The author’s Walden Two de- 

Notes 2 1 6 

scribes a community designed essentially on the principles 
which appear in the present book. 

155/10 Walter Lippmann, New York Times, 14 September 1969. 

1 58/29 Joseph Wood Krutch, The Measure of Man (Indianapolis: 
Bobbs-Merrill, 1954). 

160/22 ‘I wouldn’t like it’ According to Mr Krutch, Bertrand 
Russell answered the complaint in this way: ‘I do not disagree 
with Mr Krutch as to what I like and dislike. But we must not 
judge the society of the future by considering whether or not we 
should like to live in it; the question is whether those who have 
grown up in it will be happier than those who have grown up in 
our society or those of the past.’ Joseph Wood Krutch, ‘Danger: 
Utopia Ahead’, Saturday Review, 20 August 1966. Whether 
people like a way of life has to do with the problem of dis- 
affection but does not point to an ultimate value according to 
which a way of life is to be judged. 

162/4-5 Feodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground (1864). 

162/24-5 Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine (London: 
Hutchinson, 1967). See also ‘The Dark Ages of Psychology’, 
Listener, 14 May 1964. 

162/30-1 Peter Gay, New Yorker, 18 May 1968. 

164/3 Times Literary Supplement (London), 11 July 1968. 

167/26—7 Ramakrishna See Christopher Isherwood, Rama- 
krishna and His Disciples (London: Methuen, 1965). 

170/7 According to Michael Holroyd, in Lytton Strachey: The 
Unknown Years (London: William Heineman, 1967), G. E. 
Moore’s concept of moral conduct may be summarized as the 
intelligent prediction of practical consequences. The important 
thing, however, is not to predict the consequences but to 
bring them to bear on the behaviour of the individual. 

1 7 1 / 1 1 the ‘pure’ scientist See P. W. Bridgman, ‘The Struggle 
for Intellectual Integrity’, Harper's Magazine, December 1933. 

17 1/3 1 ‘inborn need’ George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of 
Evolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, i960). 

172/14 See P. B. Medawar, The Art of the Soluble (London: 
Methuen & Co., 1967), p. 51. According to Medawar, ‘Spen- 
cer’s thought took on a darker complexion in later years for 

Notes 217 

essentially thermodynamic reasons.’ He recognized the possi- 
bility of a ‘secular decay of order and dissipation of energy’. A 
non-functional terminus is suggested in the maximizing of 
entropy. Spencer believed that evolution ‘came to an end when 
a certain state of equilibrium was reached’. 

172/17 Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (1850). 

1 73/24 superstition See SHB, pp. 84-7. 

174/16 leisure See COR, pp. 67-71. 

1 78/ 1 1 John Milton, Paradise Lost, bk 1 . 

180/11 Crane Brinton, Anatomy of a Revolution (New York: 
W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1938), p. 195. 

180/14 G. M. Trevelyan, English Social History (London: Long- 
mans, Green & Co., 1942; Penguin Books, 1967). 

180/17 Gilbert Seldes, The Stammering Century (New York: Day, 

1 63/32 learning to see and perceive See COR, chap. 8. 

185/11-12 rules and scientific knowledge See COR, pp. 123-5 
and chap. 6. 

•85/23 Vico George Steiner, quoting Isaiah Berlin, New Yorker, 
9 May 1970, pp 157-8. 

186/9 consciousness and awareness See SHB, chap. 1 7. 

189/16 mental processes of generalizing, abstracting, and so on 
See COR, pp. 274 ff., and 1 1 , p. 120. 

190/2 problem solving See SHB, pp. 246-54 and COR, chap. 6. 

191/6-7 On the interpretation of ‘physiological correlates’, see 
Brain and Conscious Experience (New York: Springer- Verlag, 
1966), which, according to a reviewer of the book (‘Science and 
Inner Experience’, by Josephine Semmes, Science, 1966, 154, 
754-6), reported a conference held ‘to consider the material 
basis of mental activity’. 

I 9 I /35 _I 92/i palaeolithic bull Attributed to Professor Ren6 
Dubos by John A. Osmundsen, New York Times, 30 December 

192/18-19 internal copies of the environment See COR, pp. 
247 ff. 

192/26 Wilson Follett, Modem American Usage (New York : Hill & 
Wang, 1966). 

Notes 218 

1 93 / 1 1 si n and sinful See Homer Smith, Man and His Gods 
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1952), p. 236. 

* 93 / 3 °-* ‘something about Negroes themselves’ See Science 
News, 20 December 1969. 

194/21 the self See SHB, chap. 18. 

195/19-2° Joseph Wood Krutch, ‘Epitaph for an Age’, New Tork 
Times Magazine, 30 June 1967. 

1 95/26 The quotation is from a review of Floyd W. Matson’s 
The Broken Image: Man, Science, and Society (New York: George 
Braziller, 1964) in Science, 1964, 144, 829-30. 

*95/29 Abraham H. Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak- 
Experiences (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964). 

*95/29 C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 
* 957 )- 

*98/15-16 external source of power J. P. Scott, ‘Evolution and 
the Individual’, Memorandum prepared for Conference C, 
American Academy of Arts and Sciences Conferences on Evolu- 
tionary Theory and Human Progress (28 November ig6o). 

203/5 Because of differences in the modes of transmission, a 
‘generation’ means very different things in biological and cul- 
tural evolution. With respect to cultural evolution it is little 
more than a measure of time. Changes in a culture (‘mutations’) 
may occur and be passed on many times in a single generation. 

204/2 Etienne Cabet, Voyage en Icarie (Paris, 1848). 

204/8 species See Ernst Mayr, ‘Agassiz, Darwin and Evolution’, 
Harvard Library Bulletin, 1959, 13, no. 2. 

206/32 Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (New 
York: Basic Books, 1955). 

207/27 historian H. Stuart Hughes, Consciousness and Society 
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958). 

208/11-12 Keats on Newton Reported by Oscar Wilde in a 
letter to Emma Speed, 21 March 1882. Rupert Hart-Davis, 
ed., The Letters of Oscar Wilde (London, 1962). 


Preparation of this book was supported by the National 
Institutes of Mental Health, Grant number K6-MH-21, 
775 — 01 • 

Earlier discussions of some points will be found in ‘Freedom 
and the Control of Men,’ The American Scholar (winter 1955- 
6); ‘The Control of Human Behaviour,’ Transactions of the 
New York Academy of Sciences (May 1955); ‘Some Issues con- 
cerning the Control of Human Behaviour’ (with Carl R. 
Rogers), Science, 1956, 124, 1057-66; ‘The Design of Cul- 
tures,’ Daedalus (1961 summer issue); and Section' VI of 
Science and Human Behaviour. The Mead-Swing Lectures 
given at Oberlin College in October 1959, were on the same 

For editorial and other help in the preparation of the 
manuscript I am much indebted to Carole L. Smith, and for a 
critical reading to George C. Homans.